At FOTO, we are committed to helping our fellow creatives flourish. In our Q&A style blog series, Coffee with Creatives, we are highlighting the unique expertise of some of our favorite professionals, sharing tips and information on relevant topics to bring you some practical insight and inspiration for the important work you do.
Today, we are talking with professional portrait and fine art photographer and educator, Dana Leigh, to discuss her passion and gather tips on how to master the art of low light photography!
First things first, how do you take your coffee?
Dana: I am a huge coffee drinker and can't imagine starting my day any other way! I drink black coffee with vanilla creamer (heavy on the creamer).
Tell us a bit about yourself & how you got into photography?
Dana: I am a mom, wife, artist, photographer, and traveler. I live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and 5 kids. Photography has been a big part of my life for 8 years now. After having kids, I really wanted to learn how to take better pictures of them! I decided to join an online photography community called Clickin Moms and learned so much by taking classes there. I now enjoy working in the photography industry as a mentor and photography educator. I specialize in fine art and portrait photography. I absolutely love the friendships and connections that photography has brought my way and that it has provided such an amazing creative outlet for me during my stay-at-home mom years.
What is your favorite thing about shooting in low light?
Dana: I love everything about shooting in low light! My favorite thing though is the mood and emotion that shooting in low light brings to an image. Low light lends itself to more emotive imagery and that's what I love to create!
What tends to challenge you the most about low light situations?
Dana: I think the most challenging part of shooting in low light situations is trying to shoot moving subjects. You need to set your shutter speed high enough to account for the movement. This is difficult when you don't have a lot of available light.
Any tricks or settings you commonly use?
Dana: The most important thing to know when shooting in low light is where to place your subject in the available light. In my home, I look for harsh lines on the floor or wall created by light coming through a window or slider door. I place my subject right beyond that line just as the light falls into the shadows, and then have them angle their face (or body) towards the light. Before taking a shot, I really try to study how the light is hitting their face and will ask my subject to move back into the shadows more, or into the light more, until I am happy with the results. When I'm ready to start shooting, I expose for the highlights on my subject's face.
Can you tell us about a favorite time you did a shoot in the dark? What was special about the resulting photos?
Dana: My favorite low light shoot was last Halloween. I was shooting an image for a themed Instagram loop. The theme was to create an image inspired by Michael Jackson's song "Thriller." I bought some monster hands for my daughter to wear and put her in a completely dark room next to a ground floor window. I then parked my car right outside the window to get some light onto my subject. I also added in a smoke machine which helped to create light rays. The result was a spooky photo that was quite fun to photograph!
Could you share a few quick tips about how you like to edit low light photos?
Dana: I tend to keep my low light edits pretty simple. I like to lift the shadows a bit and then add a lot of contrast. I like to convert a lot of my low light images to black and white and I always add a lot of clarity to my monochrome edits which I feel helps to really make my blacks and whites pop!
Since it's almost Halloween, what's the spookiest photo shoot you've ever done?!
Dana: My Thriller shoot!
Lastly, what Fotostrap do you wear?
Dana: I have a black classic Fotostrap and I absolutely love it! The quality is amazing and I love the classic and sleek look of it. I chose to get the word "create" printed on the leather and it has been such an encouraging reminder for me to pick up my camera and do what I love, which is to create art!
Looking for more inspiration from industry creatives? Check out these other Q&A's:
Coffee with Creatives: Misty Rodda's Tips on Keeping a Fresh Perspective
Coffee with Creatives: Katie Lamb's Tips on Finding that "Mompreneur" Work/Life Balance
Coffee with Creatives: Caroline Jurgensen's Tips on Running a Business with her Spouse