Why Lighting Matters

Is lighting important? Why should I care about lighting for my photos?

As a photographer, I found myself not caring about lighting because I could always 'fix it in post'. I would shoot during the day or indoors under harsh lights and wonder why the heck I didn't like my photos?

Well here's a little secret for you: lighting matters!!! I'm going to talk about 3 reasons you need to care more about your lighting when you take photos, and by the end you're going to be absolutely convinced!

1. Lighting compliments your subject.

Lighting is a photographers friend - but also our worst enemy at times! Anyone else ever had a shoot at 1 p.m., and the lighting was so harsh? Well, this is the type of situation I'm about to talk about. Your lighting can either highlight and compliment your subject, or it can completely take away the focus from your subject all together.

When a subject has artistic lighting, it adds so much life to your images! Let me show you an example:

Direct Sun versus Golden Hour Light

On the images above, one was taken around noon (when the sun is at its highest), and the image on the right was taken at sunset. Now, neither of these photos are bad, but one clearly has a more warm feel to it!

When I think about my photography style, it leans more towards warmth and golden light rather than harsh midday sunlight. Plus, my subjects on the left are more evenly lit, and the lighting compliments the image on the right better than the left.

2. Lighting can't be changed in post.

This is something that took a long time for me to implement. Although we have awesome photo editing tools, like Lightroom and Photoshop, those things cannot change the original composition and lighting of an image (no matter how hard you try).

Instead of wasting hours in post-editing trying to correct your mistakes, take the time during your shoot to find the best lighting for your subject.


Try holding up your hand, and keep moving until your hand is evenly lit (either backlit or directly lit in the front). Once my hand is lit the way I want it, I know where I'll need my subject to be and what direction they need to face.

Grand Rapids Wedding Photographer Cassidy Lynne

3. Be picky about what time of day you shoot.

I know it can be annoying that photographers only shoot at sunset, but there's a good reason why! The lighting at sunset is beautifully golden, it's not as harsh on your subject, and it's easy to position your subject to have the light behind them.

And while I'm not saying you have to shoot at sunset for every session, here's a few tips I implement into my photography to help me preserve the best lighting:

  • If possible, book your session an hour before sunset.
  • If sunset is booked up, try shooting at sunrise too! Be sure you pick a location that has great views for sunset.
  • When your client isn't available for sunrise or sunset, try to pick a time as close to sunset / sunrise as possible! For example, try booking a session at 4:30 p.m. instead of noon, so the sun will be slightly lower than it would be at noon.

Remember: lighting is important and when you're shooting, be conscious of where your subjects are standing & how the lighting looks on them!

Grand Rapids Wedding Photographer