Photography Subjects

Light or Subject? Which should come first? When choosing your photography subjects, turn your thinking on its head. Look for the good light first, and then photograph whatever you find in it.

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Video Transcript

The subject, or the light: which one should come first?

Hi, I'm Julie from Ultimate Photo Tips, and today I'd like to try and turn your thinking around when it comes to finding subjects for your photography. Sometimes, we go out with a preconceived notion of what we want to photograph. But I say, find the good light first, and then make your subject whatever is in that light.

Photography is all about the light. The right light can make or break your image. To get the best photographs, I recommend that you keep your eyes open all the time for interesting light. When you find that light, then see where it's falling, and photograph that! Just about anything can make a good subject when it's in the right light. Let's look at a few examples.

Here's an early morning photo in the country, taken at 5:20am. Often, finding the right light means getting out during the golden hour, or magic light, which is half an hour before and after sunset and sunrise. The light is warmer at this time, and the shadows are softer, and your photos are usually better!

photography subjects
© Julie Waterhouse

Take a look at this second photo which was taken a few feet away from the first, and just three hours later at 8:30am, after the sun was high in the sky. The magic is over, and the photo is gone.

photography subjects
©Julie Waterhouse

Certain photography subejcts wouldn't exist without the light. Here's an example. Remember, look for the magic light, and photograph whatever's in it.

photography subjects
©Julie Waterhouse

When I took this photo, I was at the top of a hill, and the sun was setting down at the bottom of the hill. The light rays were really low, and it created this unusual situation in which only the leaves that were vertical to the ground were catching the light. Keep your eyes open for unique lighting situations like this. They create unique photography subjects!

photography subjects
©Julie Waterhouse

Just to show you that great photography subjects can be made out of truly anything, when it's in the right light, consider this photo. The lines are actually straight, and the curve is created by how the light is falling. It makes a nice abstract. Guess where I took it?

photo composition example
©Julie Waterhouse

I took it right here, in a Walmart parking lot! It's a close-up of the side of the shopping cart return area.

photography subjects
©Julie Waterhouse

Good light doesn't have to come from sunlight. Sometimes it's created by artificial light, too. Always be on the lookout for interesting patterns of light and shadow, which can create beautiful photography subjects.

photography subjects
©Julie Waterhouse

And don't forget night time. At night, street lights, especially when reflecting off wet pavement, can also create interesting light.

photography subjects
©Julie Waterhouse

I hope you've gathered the moral of the story by now! It might turn your thinking around a little. Find the good light first, and then photograph whatever's in it.

That's it for today! For more fun photo tips, come on over to, and make sure to sign up for my newsletter while you're there. That's where I share ideas and inspiration that I don't share anywhere else.

Happy shooting, and I'll see you next time!


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