Take a look at the 3 photographs below. They were all taken during the same session outside the family home. The weather that day was overcast and the ambient light was being bounced around in all directions by the clouds which typically means that a portrait shot of anyone will be fairly flat without any defining shadows to add interest. However, with a bit of forethought, we can use the surroundings to control the ambient light to create a more interesting photo.
The first photo was taken in the open, in the middle of the garden. The ambient light is predominately coming from above which means we see those shadows under the cheeks/mouth. Not particularly flattering but we’re lucky that the light is soft from the clouds and so the shadows aren’t too harsh. But we can do better….
The second photo is on the decking just outside the house. The important point here is that the decking is covered by a roof. There is no light coming from above now to create those shadows under the cheeks. It is all coming from the front and since the baby is facing directly out towards the light, we get a photo where there are hardly any shadows on his face at all. A fairly nice, clean look that works well for young children. But how do we get a shot with some nice defining shadows?
The last shot was taken on the path down the side of the house. On the right are trees and bushes blocking a lot of the ambient light reaching the baby. On the left is the white wall of the house. The light reflecting off the white wall is now the main lighting source. Now we get some nice side lighting on the baby, creating soft shadows on the left side of his face and giving this photo a more 3-dimensional look than the other two.