Light and Airy Photography

How to create light and airy photographs indoors and out

When I first became a photographer I was shooting just about anything. Most clients showed up in bright and dark colors and tended to want busy locations. It took me a while to realize I wasn’t happy photographing this style because I wasn’t drawn to it’s aesthetic. That’s when I discovered light and airy photography. The soft light, colors and non-distracting backgrounds made me happy, very much like my neutral colored wardrobe I have always gravitated towards.

Why light and airy photography?

Light and Airy Photography is a photography style used to achieve the soft, light-filled photographs you see in my portfolio. There are many choices, made before the photo session begins, that are crucial to a successful light and airy photo session.


The first step to a successful light and airy photography session starts with choosing a light filled location with minimal distractions. Because this is important for the look of my photos I won’t shoot in every location a client wants.

Indoors can often be the trickiest location for a light and airy photo session. Light colored interiors are necessary for optimal results. I offer a light and white studio for clients who love this look for an indoor photo session but don’t have light and bright homes. If you don’t have one a simple white/light colored wall and/or bean bag with a white backdrop is all you really need to provide your clients with a variety of photographs during their session.

Outdoors you want to look for open locations with minimal distractions and beautiful, soft light. Think filtered backlighting in open shade. I am particularly drawn to open, naturally manicured fields. If you’re not comfortable shooting in green grass look for neutral paths to stand your clients on.

Avoid locations with harsh, high contrast light and distracting backgrounds.

What to wear to your light and airy photo session

The next step for beautiful, light and airy photos is wardrobe selection. Solids and non-busy patterns in colors like whites, pastels and tans are necessary to achieve the light look desired in a light and airy photo session.

Avoid, busy patterns like large florals and large strips. These immediately take your eye from the subject to what they’re wearing. Don’t get me wrong, you want your clothing to be beautiful and noticed but it shouldn’t be the first thing people notice.

Below, you’ll see mom chose a white dress with dainty blue flowers. It photographs beautifully and adds character without taking our attention away from the subjects and the moment. Big sister is in a solid white dress so as not to compete with mom’s dress. Babies do not need anything fancy. They usually just want to be wrapped. I offer light pink, light blue and white/off-white wraps for use during all sessions.

Camera settings for a successful light and airy photo session

Shooting outdoors

Light and airy photographers shoot as wide open as possible to add that touch of dreaminess a blurry background and soft skin provide. My lenses of choice outdoors are the Sigma Art 135mm F1.8 and Sigma Art 85mm 1.4. Because these lenses naturally provide more compression with their longer lengths I don’t shoot wide open with these. Usually at F2.8 with the 135mm lens and F2 with the 85 mm lens. This gives me more appealing subject separation from the background.

Shooting Indoors

Indoors my lens of choice is my Sigma Art 50mm 1.4 lens. Sometimes I have to break out my 35mm lens but the 50mm lens is, almost, exclusively used during indoor sessions. An aperture of 2.5 is my choice for these sessions. If I am shooting 1, non-moving subject, like a sleeping newborn, I will open up to F2.0 for an even greater soft and dreamy effect.

How to edit light and airy photos

The last step in creating beautiful, light and airy photos is the editing style. Whether you prefer a slightly cooler toned image or a warmer one (that’s me) editing plays a huge role in your final results.

I am fond of and exclusively use Refined Presets. I have used various other, popular light and airy presets but these have been the ones that give me the best results with minor tweaks.

Laura Cardan is a Maternity, Newborn, Baby and Family photographer located in Vestavia, Alabama. Laura offers photo sessions in and around Birmingham.

Contact me here if you have questions. I am happy to help you achieve your vision for light and airy photography.