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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Photography 101 {Open Shade}

There're lots of different types of light in our days.  Sunset.  Lightbulbs.  Direct sunlight.  Shade.  Candle light.  That awful greenish fluorescent light in office buildings that makes everyone look a little sickly.  

Today I want to talk about a type of light called "open shade" and a fabulous but unexpected place to find it, in your garage!  

***insert a record scratch here***
Wha???  My GARAGE?  Certainly nothing pretty comes from my garage!  There's all that... garage stuff in there!  That certainly can't make for pretty pictures!

Well I beg to differ!  In addition to 13 bicycles, garbage bins, extra car seats, oil stains, hand-me-downs, sports equipments, skateboards, Christmas ornaments, tools, golf clubs, a 1 gallon jug of bubbles, the water softener, file cabinets, camping and fishing gear, dog food, a stack of outdated IEPs at least a foot high, and old carsets you will also find open shade in your garage!  And open shade makes for wonderful photographs!  So don't write off your garage just yet!   

Every year at this time, we do the annual cleaning of the garage.  It's very much like the annual running of the bulls. 
Minus the bulls.  
And the running.  
And the white outfits and red bandanas. 
And it happens in our garage.  
But other than that it's just like the running of the bulls.  

Because garages are demonic, slowly but surely, when you're not really noticing it until it's too late, the garage starts to encroach upon the cars.  Little by little, in the night when you're not there to see it, the overabundance of completely unnecessary stuff moves towards the center of the garage to fill up the open spaces.  If left unchecked, one wouldn't be able to open the car doors anymore, much less get the cars in!  It's a 3-car garage for crying out loud, and we only park 2 cars in it anyway!  So we've already sacrificed 1 bay to the relentless garage monster.  I'll be darned if I'm giving up the other two!  It's war I tell you!  
So every year in the spring, we clean the garage, right before the summer heat comes.  Because in the summer the garage is converted to a walk-in oven easily capable of baking an Easter ham.  But nobody ever bakes in the summer in the desert because that's just crazy. 
 We make everyone that is home help.  Notice how Livy is missing.  That's no accident as she spent the night at a friend's house.  17 years later she knows the trick to getting out of the annual cleaning of the garage.
Wait... back to open shade. 

Open shade is found in large shady areas that are created by big structures, like buildings, mountains, houses, and GARAGES.  But open shade is not dark.  It's right in between that dark shadowed part and the bright direct sun that you'll find open shade.  Open shade still has light coming in it from the natural light outside and thus still illuminates your subject.  Open shade is wonderful for photographers because you avoid the harsh shadows created by direct sunlight, but you still have plenty of light. 

See that line on the ground in the above pic where the shade starts?  That where the open shade starts.  But the light is still coming from lots of different directions.  So I'm going to move my subject to about 3' in the garage, facing outside.  That part is a beg deal here!

Next, I'm going to make sure that the subject faces the light so that light hits his face.  Not necessarily face the sun, but wherever direction the light is coming from.  In my garage the light is coming from the open garage door, so that's where I have my kiddos face when I take the photo.  It doesn't have to directly hit the face.  In fact if it's at a slight angle to the light, like it is on Jude's face below, it creates nice subtle shadows that add depth and texture to your subject, and that's kinda pretty!

Here's Jude taking a break from cleaning with something pink on his finger.   Because you should always stick your finger in things... no matter what they are.  Again, he's about 2-3' behind the open garage door, facing the outside.  See how the light is hitting him?  And see how the background is considerably darker?  There's not nearly as much light in the back of the garage as compared to just 3' inside of it. 
And there're even some great catch lights being reflected in his eyes!  You can kinda make out my standing reflection as I took his pic in his eyes is you look carefully. 
Ya, Boo was pretty sure he looked like a much cooler kid once he donned a big chain around his neck.  This is the epitome of coolness me thinks.  Neck chains.  It's surely the next new big trend for 11 year olds.  Livy says neck chains are swag.  #Ihavea17yearoldtohelpmekeepuponthelingo

One more BIG GINORMOUS thing...
Maybe you're asking about all that clutter in your garage and how we're gonna fix that problem.  'Cause who want to see all that stuff in the background of your photos.  Well I definitely have a solution for it.  See how my subject is in focus, but the background is out of focus?  All that background blur makes it so we really don't see the over-abundance of stuff in the garage, and all the attention is on my swag 11-year-old. 

Here's the thing... you really need to be shooting in Manual mode to get that blurry background and make all that stupid clutter that we really should just throw away, but I have no idea why we're keeping it all!  We have hoarding tendencies I tell you!!! stuff blur into the background.  
If you're already shooting in Manual mode you likely already know about bokeh and how to create it.  Keep your aperture values low.  If you're not shooting in Manual mode yet, but would like to learn, my next Manual class will likely be this summer.  Give me a holler with your email address if you're interested and would like me to put you on the interest list.  No commitment.  (And don't worry cause I won't publish the comment with your email address.  Like garage monsters, we gotta keep spam at bay!)

Okay, so open up your garage and take some pics using yummy open shade.  You might just be surprised what ordinary miracles you capture! 

ps-hash tags are the new license plates

pps-lots of photography 101 posts and free tutorials here


  1. #GreatPost! My Sixteen yo says that hashtagging is the bomb dot com. (?) She never says, "Yes mama," anymore. Its alway, "Sure beans." Teenage girls keep you on your toes and (knees)! I sure do love them though.

    On a more serious note, when will registration for the next Lightroom class open?

    1. Melanie, registration for the next class will open early next month. Right now I think May 5th-ish in the morning. Would love to have you there!

  2. Thanks for this tutorial!

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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