Light and Airy Photography: 5 Styles to Try

Light and Airy Photography: 5 Styles to Try

While rich colors and moody skies can be attention-grabbing, there is something refreshing about light and airy photography. This style has come to the fore in recent years, particularly in the lifestyle niche. To the untrained eye, it looks like nothing more than a change of exposure. However, there is more to this technique than meets the eye.

Here are five different ways to create bright images, complete with professional inspiration. Special thanks to Andrea Piacquadio for the image used in the cover photo.

Bright and Airy Photography Inspiration

High-Key Portraits

One of the most common forms of light and airy photography is actually quite old. High-key lighting was first introduced in the early days of film, but it is now used for creative purposes. This look is achieved by using one or more soft lighting sources to create a bright shooting environment.

By keeping both your subject and the background well lit, you reduce the appearance of distracting shadows and blemishes. The bright exposure also injects a sense of energy.

Allison Wollenhaupt (@allisonwollen) is one photographer who has mastered this technique, delivering beautiful portraits of families and newborns. Her style really complements the wide-eyed spirit of her subjects.

Notice that many of her models are dressed in light clothing. This is a deliberate choice that helps to accentuate the high-key style.

Pregnancy photography, Miranda North (@mirandanorthphoto), pushes the high-key look even further. In many cases, the background of her shots is deliberately overexposed to create white space.

Golden Hues

It is often said that warm colors attract the eye. Perhaps this is why so many photographers now embrace golden tones. In the natural environment, these hues can be provided by the sun as it gradually descends towards the horizon.

Karl Shakur (@karl_shakur), who often plays the role of subject in his own photography, includes at least a sprinkle of golden light in most of his work. These colors are used to draw your eyes towards the most important features of each image.

In her wedding and travel work, Kayla Barker (@kaylabarkerphoto) does not use wild bursts of color. Instead, she infuses all of her images with a gentle, warm color palette. 

This style gives her pictures a sunkissed look, even when overhead conditions are gray or the shoot was conducted inside.

Muted Tones

While bold color can be appealing, some photographers prefer to maintain a much more subtle color palette. The resulting images often seem more natural and less cluttered.

Keeping things light and airy automatically reduces the amount of rich color in your images. Hannah Argyle (@hannahargyle) takes this technique one step further, using white space to infuse her photography with a touch of minimalism.

In spite of the muted colors, her images still retain some punch thanks to deep blacks. Lighter shadows are lifted to maintain a bright feel.

Although Japanese film photographer, Kayoko Nishita, takes many pictures that include flowers, she tends to dial down the color. This promotes her subject as the main focal point, while still maintaining that natural beauty within the frame.

Bright Interiors

In the domain of lifestyle photography, faces and places are most often the subject. However, there is nothing that tells the true story of our lives better than the homes we inhabit. 

Of course, working indoors does come with challenges. With a limited amount of natural light available, rooms can seem dark. Employing a light and airy style helps to make such spaces more inviting.

Award-winning lifestyle blogger and photographer, Julia Smith (@humphreyandgrace), knows exactly how to make homes look bright and beautiful.

Another photographer with a sense of interior style is Lucy Call (@lucycall). Notice how she makes each space seem light and airy, while still maintaining natural shadows.

The Great Outdoors

Many of the biggest accounts on Instagram are owned by photographers who seek to portray the outdoor lifestyle. These creatives capture the fun of camping with friends and the excitement of exploring new locations.

Intense sunlight and even overcast skies naturally lend themselves to bright and breezy images. Stephen Matera (@stephen_matera) has mastered this style, capturing a variety of outdoor activities.

Many of his images are taken on sunny days, sometimes with the sun in the frame. He carefully controls exposure to avoid clipping the highlights, while lifting the shadows to create that light and airy feel.

Andrew Kearns (@andrewtkearns) takes more artistic liberties with his outdoor lifestyle photography. At times, he will happily burn out the sky in order to keep the main subject looking bright.

Related: The Andrew Kearns Interview

Different Styles

All of the photographers mentioned above embrace light and airy tones in their work. However, you will notice that there is a range of styles on display. This proves that, no matter what your photographic niche might be, it is possible to produce bright and breezy images.

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