Light and Airy Photography Guide and Tips

by Portraits Refined Team

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Light and airy photography is a style with low contrast and soft colors. Learn what to know for shooting beautiful light and airy pictures.

Person wearing a beanie with hands against cheeks.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Light and airy is one of the many photographic and editing styles. It has a soft, dreamy, and low-contrast look.

The whimsical appeal is popular, and people associate it with happiness.

You can use the style with all types of photography. But it looks best with pictures of people in outdoor or indoor natural light.

The following is your complete guide to light and airy photography. You’ll learn how to shoot and edit photos with it.

What’s light and airy photography?

Light and airy photography of a couple hugging in a grass field.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Light and airy photography are about low contrast and neutral colors.

It’s one of the most sought-after photography styles when you do it right.

You can achieve it with artificial or natural light.

It’s an excellent style because it results in stunning images.

It leads to fewer blemishes and wrinkles. So, portraits turn out beautiful.

You must be careful with the highlights. Overexposure and blown-out sections will ruin an airy photo.

You can’t recover the details lost in blown-out images.

So, learn to capture and edit light and airy pictures like a professional.

How to shoot light and airy photos

Person walking across a street while holding a coffee.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Light and airy photography begins in-camera and ends with editing.

There are many aspects to taking stunning light and airy pictures. The camera gear, lighting, location, and subject play crucial roles.

The following covers everything you need to capture dreamy images.

Use even lighting

Couple hugging while sitting on rocks above the water.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

Even lighting is essential for light and airy photography. You can use even lighting with artificial or natural light indoors or outdoors.

The time of day also matters less if you can find a good location.

Even lighting ensures the shadows are light and reduces contrast within an image.

The golden hours are the best times to take light and airy photos.

They occur at sunrise and sunset, as both times provide soft and beautiful sunlight. Front and backlighting work well.

If you plan to shoot in mid-day natural light, find shade because it results in flat lighting.

Otherwise, your subject will have uneven and harsh shadows.

If the session is indoors, you can use artificial or window light. Regardless of the location, even lighting is the key.

If you want to use artificial light, a speedlight will suffice.

The key is to mimic even sunlight. Adjust the power to find the ideal light.

Even lighting reduces shadows and contrast, making it a must-do.

Use a shallow depth of field

Photographer sitting on the edge of a mountain.
Photo courtesy of Canva.

A shallow depth of field creates a soft, dreamy, and blurry background.

There are several ways to capture a shallow depth of field.

You can use a wide aperture or long focal length. Another way is to increase the distance between a subject and the background.

A creamy and blurry background is essential for light and airy photography.

It also makes the subject stand out with a sharp focus on them.

The ideal scenario is to use a lens longer than 50mm and an aperture of f/1.8 or wider.

Then, the distance between the camera and the subject must be less than the subject and the background.

Use a light or neutral background

Couple walking on a beach.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Soft and pastel colors make a photo light and airy. So, focus on using light and neutral backgrounds.

Avoid backgrounds with deep shadows, high contrast, and texture.

White walls, trees, fields, the sky, and minimalistic landscapes are excellent backgrounds.

The background affects the look and feel of the image, so choose a good one.

Balance the exposure

Buildings near a beach.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Light and airy photos are on the brighter side. Overexposure may seem like the solution, but you must avoid blown-out images.

The goal is not to overexpose. Instead, you must capture a bright photo with low contrast and soft shadows.

Balance the exposure to ensure you capture the highest quality image. Then, you can enhance the light and airy effect in editing.

Also, use the RAW file format rather than JPEG. It retains all the image details, allowing you to make powerful edits.

Tell your subject what to wear

Person standing in a field.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

Avoid dark and bold colors to capture light and airy pictures. Also, avoid clothes with letters, words, or distracting patterns.

The theme should be light and plain colors, such as pastels or neutrals.

You can also provide a pastel or beige blanket for the subject.

The subject’s clothes are as essential as the scene around them.

How to edit light and airy photos

Person wearing a dress and walking on white sand.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

First, you must capture a beautiful photo. Then, you can enhance the light and airy effects with editing.

Since the style is bright, keep an eye on the exposure. The histogram is an excellent tool to help you keep everything in balance.

You can start with a preset that makes edits for the light and airy effect. Then, you can tweak it from there.

A light and airy photo should be on the warmer end of the color temperature scale.

You can also lighten the shadows and contrast for a softer look.

If there is underexposure, you can increase the highlights or exposure.

The goal is to make edits to brighten and soften the image without blowing it out.


Light and airy photography is dreamy, whimsical, and bright. You can achieve it with low contrast, light shadows, and soft colors.

It’s essential to balance the exposure and avoid blown-out sections. You can perfect the light and airy look in post-processing.

Be patient, as beautiful light and airy photography will take time to master.

Related: A to Z: Photography Terms Glossary

Featured image courtesy of Unsplash.

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