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Bright And Airy Photos

How to get that bright and airy look

Perhaps the two most popular photography editing styles are the bright and airy and the dark and moody styles. There are photographers who prefer one to the other and their signature style falls normally to one of these styles, others like using them according to the season.

Normally, we associate the bright and airy style with spring and summer, but the style can be used in any season. There are plenty of beautiful autumn and winter images that are bright and airy, so the second half of the year doesn’t have to be dark and moody. Of course, like with anything else, it all depends on what look you are going for.

To achieve bright and airy photos, you’ll need to consider:

  • Backdrops and props
  • Light and Shadows
  • Camera settings
  • Editing

bright and airy photos

Backdrops and props

First, select a bright background. This could be a white, grey or pastel coloured wall or backdrop or even a white tablecloth. Selecting the right props is important to achieve a bright and airy look. Avoid using dark props as they would create a huge contrast and we don’t want that. Natural coloured tableware, glass, wood, fabrics in light colours work well with this style. This, however, doesn’t mean your food or hero cannot be dark or colourful.

Light and shadows

Needless to say, you’ll need plenty of light for this style. Choose a spot where you have plenty of natural light. Having said that, be careful with harsh light as it can deepen the shadows.Too dark shadows won’t help to achieve the bright and airy look. If the light is too harsh, move further from your light source or use a diffuser. If you are shooting in a low light situation (for example on a dark winter day), you can increase the ISO to get more light. However, bear in mind that raising the ISO can add noise to your images and some stock photography sites only accept photos at certain ISO values. What you could do instead is use a tripod.

bright and airy photos

Camera settings

To get that typical bright and airy look, a wide aperture like 2.8-1.8 is best to use. This will create a shallow depth of field. Depending on your light source, you may have to lower your shutter speed, and this is when a tripod can come in handy.

The other crucial setting for perfect bright and airy images is the White Balance. If you are unsure how to set the white balance or can’t adjust it properly in post production, use the Auto White Balance function in your camera. This will be pretty close to the reality.


As for the editing, there are different ways to brighten your images in Lightroom and Photoshop. You can increase the shadows to soften/open up the shadows. When doing that, make sure you don’t overdo that, otherwise the photo will look dull and will have no 3D effect at all. Equally, make sure you don’t overexpose the photo in post production and you don’t have burnt out spots.

Depending on the look you go for, you can adjust the highlights and increase the whites. As exposure is powerful, I normally adjust it last if I need to adjust it at all.

Another way of making a photo bright is to adjust the tone curve. In Photoshop you can also use Levels, however, Levels have just three control points (black, white and midpoint) and it is a single axis adjustment. Curves allow you to place multiple control points and each point can move on two axes.

Once you are happy with your edit, I would suggest leaving the photo for a few hours or even for a day. Have another look later with a fresh pair of eyes and if you are still happy with your photo, then great, if not, you can adjust it.

This process helped me a lot. I hope it helps you too!


bright and airy

bright and airy photos

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