Basic Shooting Techniques

Exposure and Lighting Tips for Photographers

These key points are what goes through my mind on every photoshoot. Although they are ‘basic’ rules, they still hold a lot of weight in all my photoshoots and outline the foundation for photography as a whole ✨

1. Focus, focus, focus. Yeah, pretty obvious but I’ve actually had clients tell me horror stories where most of the images they received back were out of focus. And this isn’t a simple-you’re shooting too fast and you just made a blurry image, or you accidentally set the focus on the model’s hand instead of her eyes. It’s actually all about your F-Stop. If you’re shooting below a 5.6 F-Stop, chances are some of the details in your photo will be out of focus. I’ve seen lots of beginner photographers get soooo excited about shooting at a 2.8 F-Stop or lower because it makes the background blurry. This can look cool and artsy if that’s what you’re going for-BUT if you are hired to shoot jewelry or clothing details, this ain’t gonna cut it. Because you won’t just blur out the background, your key product details will most likely be blurry too. So what I like to do is shoot at least at a 5.6 F-Stop (higher if I’m shooting jewelry)-so I have less room for error. 😄

2. White balance. It pains me deeply when people set their camera’s white balance to ‘auto’. That will give you the biggest headache when you start editing because every photo you’ve taken now has a different white balance setting. 😩 Most digital cameras give you some ‘template’ white balance options like-auto, outdoor, shady, cloudy, flash, etc. and even an option to manually adjust the kelvin setting. Personally I like to stay away from ‘auto’ and just use the ‘outdoor’ or ‘shade’ options. Another tip to try when you’re shooting- is before photographing your subject, shoot something white with the same lighting/location (i.e. piece of paper or a color checker card). That way when you are editing, you have a white balance reference to go off of. In Lightroom it’s super easy to batch white balance if you’ve prepared your shots this way. The closer you are to the perfect setting while shooting, the less likely you’ll be pulling your hair out while editing.

3. Exposure. Ok I think this has got to be my number one key point. I see a lot of people over-exposing their images ALL THE TIME-and then thinking they can save it in post production. If you over or under expose your images, then there isn’t any ‘information’ in the file to save and bring back to life. What I like to do is bring up my histogram while shooting and visually see how the camera is taking in the light from a technical point of view. That way I can see if my exposure needs to be changed. Here’s an easy-to-read article about understanding your histogram-but you basically want your histogram to read just in the middle, not too far to the left (meaning it’s under-exposed), or too far to the right (over-exposed). Our eyes are deceitful and won’t be able to tell you this information, so take the time to actually look at the histogram to make sure the exposure is correct! Even if you’re going for a ‘blown’ out look (or the opposite, super dark), you can always change that in post. Better to expose correctly and have room to play with the RAW files in post, than to expose incorrectly and have no file information to alter.

4. Using your Reflector. This is what I like to call the “Kiss of Light” for photography. Just a little extra something that will put that ‘cherry on top’ of your images. Adding a reflector to your shoot will only elevate things, so I always try to use one when I can. It will help get rid of under-eye shadows (or just shadows in general), add some extra light to a dimly lit environment, and allow you to get an even better exposure to your images. For example: If you’re backlighting your subject, then in most cases your subject is now in shadow while the background is filled with bright light. If you reflect some light onto your model, then you are able to bring down your exposure-making the background and subject closer to equal exposure. Most reflectors also have a diffuser option, which can help you get a nice even light on your subject when it’s super bright outside.

Also want to note-if you’re shooting outdoors or in an environment where you can’t control the lighting-then you’ll have to check on these key points several times throughout shooting. The sunlight will change, or your client will want to switch things up and shoot in the shade, etc-so being able to understand your gear and how quickly you can switch your settings will make you look like a BOSS. Whenever I’m wanting to work on a new technique or get quicker, I’ll set up a test shoot with a model to practice.

So there’s your, not-so-basic, basic shooting techniques 😎 If you have further questions feel free to always send me an email at or send me a DM on Instagram @champagneunicorns 🦄 Thanks for reading!