It is early morning when I walk my sleepy, barely opened eyes into the kitchen. Today I will be preparing scrambled eggs for breakfast. Clumsily the ingredients are gathered on the counter, unhurriedly the pan is placed on the stove to melt some butter. Each egg is cracked on the side of the warm pan and once all the eggs have been added, a wooden spoon gently mixes them. Over the low flame the eggs cook slowly, which allows time to get the coffee going.
I wait for the espresso machine to pour out the warm, dark, energizing drink that entices my nose, and for the nourishment that will quiet my grumbling stomach to finish cooking. In between yawns and eye rubbings I notice the beautiful early morning light peering in through the dining room window. The light is gentle, and when it touches the table the highlights are a bit harsh, the shadows somewhat mysterious. The only word that floats through my mind is…wow!
Not wanting to overcook the eggs I turn my attention back to them. When they have finished cooking I turn the heat off, place the pan on the back burner and begin pouring myself a cup of coffee. But my eyes again turn back to that little corner of the dining room.
Fighting fatigue and hunger I know I have to capture the scene. I look around to see what subject I can photograph in this dreamy light. Eggs. Quickly I gather them along with a wooden eggcup holder and some feathers courtesy of our Cockatiels. (Don’t worry, I didn’t pluck our birds. The feathers are a result of their molting.) Without much thought I arrange the scene and pickup my camera. I snap three photos before feeling satisfied and no longer able to ignore my grumbling stomach, which is telling me it needs food now.
After breakfast I finally check the photos on my camera’s screen…The light was captured exactly as I saw it two hours ago. Now I begin regretting not having shot more photos. Darn, an opportunity missed. As I am cleaning up the kitchen the photos and light keep crawling back into my thoughts. I really should have shot more photos. Then and there I decide another photo session must take place, but by this time the light is completely different. No longer are the dramatic light and shadows touching the eggs and feathers in the same manner. Disappointed, I turn my attention back to the day’s activities.
Unfortunately due to a packed agenda the next few mornings would not allow for another photo session. That same day and later that night I once again feel the urge to setup the same scene from the morning’s mini photo session. I try very hard to recreate the scene with artificial light, but I just can’t. I persevere and end up shooting the following photos.
On that day I re-learned that just as in life, in photography we too must seize the moment. The big bright star in the sky is constantly shifting, and those shifts result in different shooting conditions, of course. If we rely on the sun to provide the light in which we shoot our photos we must always be aware of how it falls on our shooting areas, and how different times of the day will affect lighting conditions. Each day will differ somewhat. One day the sky may be clear, or it may be cloudy, perhaps there are a few clouds covering the sun — each condition will yield a different photograph.
Working with artificial light is easier to control and our results may be more consistent. Even saying so there are other factors that can cause slight differences in exposures captured on different days. One must take into account the direction in which the light was set up, was a bounce or reflector used, what angle did we shot from, what colors where used and how did they affect the overall mood and light. All of those factors also apply to shooting with sunlight.
Every time you point your camera at your subject there are many things to consider. Light is perhaps the single most important element in all types of photography. So if I can leave you with one tip, it is to seize the moment when conditions look perfect to you and what you want to capture. You may not get the chance to recreate the exact look next time.
“Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography.” ~ George Eastman
The featured photo was included in my photography book, Yummy Pics: A Food Blogger’s Guide to Better Photos. In it you can read more about shooting with both sunlight and artificial light. Further more I explain how light direction affects a photograph, making use of different light types, using reflectors and bounce, what impact different lighting conditions have on an exposure, and much much more. If you’d like to preview the book please go to this page. Additionally you can read through my previous food photography tutorials in the archives here. Thanks!
Have a great weekend and I hope you squeeze in time for a photo session or two.