My Process for Light and Airy Photos

While there's definitely something to be said for a moody image, there's something about a light and airy instagram feed, right? Today I'm sharing my process for creating bright and airy images and my free light & airy preset so you can start editing those L&A insta images asap. We'll talk about choosing a location, time of day, lighting, mastering your blur (aka bokeh) and so much more. Ready? Let's go!

my process for light and airy photos

Choose the Setting

Think of your location, and every single detail that makes the image, as the groundwork for the image. You can’t shoot a light and airy image in a pitch-black room without some intervention or manipulation. Look for light and look for a lot of it.

Step One: Light the foreground

You will want to have a good, even, light source either between you and your subject or behind you (assuming you’re not blocking the source… so, like, you will need the sun). Look for a light source that has been diffused, or scattered. Think about light like a flashlight and a white or neutral wall. The flashlight is your light source and the white/neutral wall is your light reflector. Okay, so if you stand 3 feet from a white wall and turn on your flashlight, there will be a bright spot on the wall. For airy photography, you’re not looking for this kind of light.

If you stand 10 feet from a white wall and turn on your flashlight, the light will cover more of the wall. You are looking for this kind of light.

Get the look with our mix-and-match light and airy preset suite

Step Two: Light the background

Now that you have a scattered, or diffused light source on your subject, you want to introduce light into your frame behind your subject. Look through your viewfinder from different angles. If there are a lot of deep shadows behind your subject, try a different angle. Look for a background similar to the foreground.


Step Three: Shoot in golden hour

Try shooting in the first two hours of the day or the last two hours. There is a lot more flexibility with lighting during these hours because the sun isn’t hitting everything. The sun is to the side and the sky has become the main light source (like using a flashlight on a white wall from 10 feet away).

Pick digital or film (or both)

If you're shooting digital

If you are shooting digital make sure to avoid bright spots in your photograph. Digital images don’t handle overexposure very well, so you'll want to watch for that. You have seen highlight loss if you have ever seen someone lose the top of their head in an image (or you don’t know where there hair stops and the background begins).

Shoot in RAW. If you want light and airy digital photos, you are going to need to make edits to your image and you're going to need all the detail you can get (aka shoot in RAW)! Full tutorial below.

Edited with the Light and Airy Preset Suite.

If you're shooting film

If you are shooting film, you will want to overexpose your images. Film does not handle the shadows as well as digital. The detail in underexposed shadows can turn into a muddy mess on film if you aren't careful. Making sure that your light is well-balanced (light in the foreground and background) will help you avoid these issues.

Master your bokeh

Bokeh is just a cute name for blur. You get a lot of blur in your images by having a low aperture (sometimes listed like this: f/1.8 or f/2.0). So low aperture = narrow depth of field = blur. As you lower your aperture, less and less will be in focus. Using a low aperture really helps you to achieve the light and airy look because it (1) naturally brightens the image (2) puts the focus on just a few details. Blur is your light-and-airy friend.

Time to edit those light and bright film images

start a conversation with your lab

Don’t be afraid to tweak your film images to make sure they are just right. But also, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your lab. They want to make sure that you’re not re-editing every image they send your way. There might be a few things you can change while shooting and there might be a few things they can change on their end!

light and airy preset suite photo

Ready to create light and airy photos?

I made a free light & airy preset for you! This preset will handle the base of your image and lay the foundation for a light and airy edit. Just enter your name and email address below so I know where to send your free preset!


Time to edit those light and airy digital images

Step one: edit on a white background

If you want light and airy images, you need to compare them to something light and airy. A white background will do the trick! Just click “develop” in the menu, right click the background, and select “white” for the background color.

Step two: Download the free light & airy preset

Apply this beauty to every digital image! Enter your name and email below to get started with your own bright and airy photos!


Get the free light & airy preset


Light and airy for the win! Happy shooting and editing. If you have any questions about my process, I would love to answer them in the comments below.