REDEFINE | Light effects + utilizing artificial light feature by Courtney Bowles Photography


“There is only one sun. We can’t all claim to only have one way to use the light, but we can REDEFINE how we choose to express it. “

Why are you passionate about the play of light in your images?
CB: I think artificial light in photography has always intrigued but also intimidated me. Natural light, you can see how it falls and is fairly predictable (depending on conditions). And until this year, I’ve always photographed less in the winter because of darker conditions. Truly, it was this quote that really flipped the switch: “In order to impact darkness, you must do something with light.” Probably a cheesy little blurb on pinterest but an aha moment nonetheless.

When did you first learn this technique? Or, when did you first realize you liked this topic?
CB: I played around with some weird lighting while in art school because I had all the free time in the world (plus art school, the perfect time for experimentation). After graduation, I worked in a very formal portrait studio and I hated it. So when I started my own business, I decided natural light only was the way to go as a response to that job.
And now, with my children, I think the love of exploration and experimentation is back. In order to keep them engaged and happy, we’ll try something “cool and fun” (etc. led ice cubes in the tub, pixel stick rainbows at night, light painting while jumping on the bed). Sometimes the experiment fails and no one but me will ever see the result. And other times the results are better than I could have ever imagined.

What are the tips you would share with anyone trying to achieve this technique?

1. Experiment! Try it. Get out of your comfort zone. Sometimes the results will be terrible and that’s ok.
2. Look for light sources in unexpected places. The LED ice cubes were from Urban Outfitters and purchased on clearance. Cell phones, candlelight and flashlights can also work wonders!
3. Embrace the darkness. Let the shadows dominate the frame and expose for the highlights.
4. Don’t be afraid of high ISO and grain. Our cameras are incredible machines that we can use to create incredible images. Use your tools.
5. Shoot at night. Inside or outside – just do it.

What were the challenges for you in the beginning?
I was far too worried about weird results. Once I put the fear of judgement (even my own) out of my mind, it is easier to have fun creating.



I’m Courtney! A Virginia-based wedding and portrait photographer, who also photographs her children all day long. I love all styles of photography and try to keep a diverse skill set. I am constantly trying to learn from others and to apply techniques in a way that makes them my own.



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