How to Read Light

How to Read Light

What if we told you there was a simple way to ensure your clients are always in the best available light? Use this simple trick.

Learning to read light is critical to the success of your photography, but it doesn't have to be complicated! All you need is your hand to help you discover the most flattering light.

Use Your Hand to Read Light:

Place your hand in the same space you plan to photograph your client and slowly tilt it back and forth, up and down. Notice how the light illuminates your hand differently depending on its tilt toward or away from your light source? Your hand represents how the light will fall on your subjects' faces, so when you go to place your subjects in the scene, you know exactly how to position them for the best results.

Direct Light


As your hand tilts toward your light source, it becomes evenly lit with little shadows in the creases. This direct light will produce a portrait with even, bright light on your subject's face.

Side Light


Tilting your hand so the light source is directly to the side causes harsher shadows to appear in the creases of your hand. Parts of your hand are illuminated while other parts fall into shadow. This sidelight will produce a portrait with greater contrast on your subject's face.

Back Light


Turn your palm 180° away from your light source. Your hand is now backlit and your entire palm is in consistent lighting. Back light will produce a portrait with even lighting.

How do you find the best light? What do you think of this trick? Give it a shot and let us know what you think.

Ashley Loney + Emily Sweet / Portra400 + Portra800 / Pentax645 / Noritsu S-1800


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