Want better pictures? Find better light

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/11, 1.1 sec

Early in my career I took a Maine Photography Workshop class with Steve McCurry. I learned a few things during my week.

One thing that was quite frustrating no one was really helping me get over the hump with my work. This is how it felt. I would show my work and ask what I could do that would have improved the images.

Over and over I would hear you just need to shoot these places at a different time of day. I can imagine I probably was rolling my eyes at these comments.

For a chunk of the work I showed when on assignment I had to shoot it at that time of day. I would not be back and therefore this is the best I could pull off.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 55-200mm, ISO 200, ƒ/6.4, 1/500

Therefore my work continued for a while look like the difference between these two images.

Now look at what makes all these photos pop.

Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 200, ƒ/9, 20 sec
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 200, ƒ/14, 1/320–off camera flash
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 12800, ƒ/2.8, 1/60
Fuji X-E2, FUJINON XF 18-55mm, ISO 6400, ƒ/2.8, 1/90
Nikon D4, Sigma 120-300mm ƒ/2.8 DG OS, ISO 100, ƒ/5, 1/250–Off camera flashes
Nikon D4, AF-S NIKKOR 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, ISO 125, ƒ/14, 1/250–off camera flash

You have to be willing to get up early or stay up late and look for the best light, or you have to create your own lighting as I often do today. You see photography is writing with light. You need to learn all you can about light and when it occurs naturally to take advantage of those moments or when the light just isn’t all that good bring your own light to help improve the existing light.

There are basically two things you need to remember, it is often easier to plan your photos to coincide with the time of day that the light will look the best and when necessary know how to add light to improve an existing condition.