For every session I photograph, it is so important to me to find out exactly where each of my sessions are going to take place to the very exact spot at each location. Some of my clients ask me why I need to know such detailed information and I tell them I use a special tool/map called the Photographer’s Ephemeris. With this map I can enter the date and location of where the session will take place. I can move a slider that moves the time/sun so I can see where the best lighting will be. Lastly I can place the exact spot where I want my subjects/models to be compared to where the sun is.
Below I share all about this wonderful tool/map called Photographer’s Ephemeris as I believe it is a must have for EVERY photographer whether you are a professional or amateur. This free tool can be downloaded to your computer’s desktop or right to your mobile device. For me this is a vital tool that has helped plan for the best lighting for every session I photograph and I hope you will get as much use out of it as I have.
In the diagram and photo above I wanted to show you that even if your session happens to be at a time that lighting isn’t ideal, you can do your research and find a location with ample shade to act as a barrier between your clients and the sun. This session above took place at a state park which did not open until 10am…the sun was so bright being that it was in September. Without planning my session ahead of time and using the Photographer’s Ephemeris to guide me in finding the best possible light & detailed spot for this location, I would have set myself up for a session with bad lighting. This couple was surrounded by trees as you can see from the diagram above and where I placed this couple on the map. Even though you can see how bright the light is passed those trees, they were in the best light possible due to the ample shade provided.
This diagram and photo above took place at Sonoma State University which doesn’t have a time limit for which you need to be there. There are also so many spots at this university that using the Photographer’s Ephemeris to play around with is quite helpful for finding the best spots and lighting throughout the big campus before arriving. The last thing you want to do is show up at a university with your clients and not know where you are going. Especially if you are photographing a family with young kids. It’s so important to plan ahead of time…without the Photographer’s Ephemeris this would have been hard to plan.
This diagram and photo above took place up in the rolling hills of Helen Putnam Park in Petaluma. With this session being right before sunset in November, I knew the sun would be setting fast. I wanted to make sure I found a few spots…one with shade to act as a barrier and one with the open rolling hills as a backdrop. With it being November 2 hours before sunset the lighting was so perfect, that I didn’t even need to have trees acting as a barrier between my client and the sun. I love how I was able to capture the open landscape of the rolling hills while still capturing the best light as possible.
In this last diagram and photos above I wanted to show you what the diagram looked like when I moved the slider 4 hours before sunset. It shows that when I placed my couple in front of the barn I was able to get that beautiful sidelight from the sun which lighted them both so nicely. Being that this was the end of September and out in the country I notice the sun was very soft lit as it was setting. I actually didn’t shoot 4 hours before sunset, these photos were approximately 2 hours before. I still could have photographed them 4 hours before though as the diagram shows the sun would have been in a perfect spot, especially if I had them close to the barn in the top photo. The barn acts as shade if the sun was very bright behind them.
I hope this post has helped you understand how easy it is to find perfect light for every photo shoot. The best part is being able to plan ahead of time and knowing exactly where the best spots are at each location. What’s even better than that is if you are photographing a session that is out-of-town at a location you have never been to before. All you have to do is enter the address, the date of the session and everything you need to find the best possible light will be right there in front of you. Nothing better than capturing you clients in beautiful natural light and with Photographer’s Ephemeris this makes it so easy!!!
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