Finding Light When Finding Light is Hard

As we explore our first (revisited) theme this year, Window Light, I’m inspired to show you the importance of a window and the light it lets in, no matter what kind of space you live in.

When life is hard, it sometimes consumes you to the point of being blinded to the good in life – to the light in life. Sometimes the darkness swallows us up and sometimes, that darkness leads to us making excuses as to why we can’t find the light. We convince ourselves that our situation makes it impossible. The darkness makes us want to give up, and we will give up if we let the darkness win. To put it simply, stop making excuses. I know, some situations are less than ideal, we’ve all been there and it’s no fun. The longer you linger in the “can’ts” and “nevers”, though, the longer you’ll be unsatisfied.

This Finding the Light project has become so much more than just finding literal light, but figurative light too. It’s shown us that even in the darkest places and times, there is light to be found. It might be dim and moody, but it is light nonetheless. It is our light. Not hers or his or theirs. It is ours, and that makes it unique. No one else anywhere in the world has the light that you do – again, both literally and figuratively. Any light we can find that makes us smile, is good light. We’ve all heard the advice to focus on what is positive, rather than dwelling on the negativity. We lean on those positives in life to get us through. Just as you focus on the positives in life, focus on what light you do have, rather than the light you don’t have. Perhaps you see others’ images, in homes filled with light. All you can do is dwell on how you wish you had a home with light like that. Wishing for something we don’t have, won’t help. When you spend your time doing that, you’re dwelling in that darkness. You’re not letting the light in. You’re focusing on someone else’s light and wasting your time.

Instead, take the time to observe your surroundings in a way you haven’t before. Find the light you do have that excites you. Embrace what you have and go with it. Don’t try to make it something it’s not. If you have a small, dim space, let that show in your photos. Document the light honestly, just as you would with the moments. Forcing the light to be bright and airy in a photograph, when it is actually dim and moody in real life, can be done, but it can lead to frustration too. I think the problem many photographers face while documenting life in their own homes, isn’t necessarily a lack of light, but an issue of not being able to get that ideal light and image out of their heads. We hang onto the light and space we wish we had and when our photographs don’t match up with those ideals, we are disappointed, every single time.

Wipe that ideal slate clean. Ideal is bullshit. Let what you do have, be your ideal, and then watch as you create images in your own space that match up with that new ideal, one that is attainable. Watch the magic happen. Lean into the light (the positives!) you do have, and get to know it on a personal level. Observe it all day everyday. Watch the way it changes throughout the year. We have windows in our house to let light in, hang out by those windows, photograph close to those windows. Rearrange your house according to where the windows are if you have to. Create a new gathering space near a window to encourage natural moments to happen there. Maybe you won’t have a space in every room where you can gather around the light, but that will only make the spaces where you can gather near the light, more special. I’ve lived in a lot of different homes, and I’ll tell you, the ones with poor light taught me more than the ones with great light. Funny how that works isn’t it?

Let your light be the most important, most amazing light there is. Realize it’s uniqueness. Don’t judge it, force it, or wish it were a different kind of light, just embrace it for what it is.

Happy Light Finding, friends.


Canon 1V, Ilford hp5 400 – a favorite film image taken in front a favorite window in the house we lived in last year.

  • January 3, 2017 - 2:54 PM

    rhonda - Erin i loved this. The writing, the meaning and the encouragement. All of it. Thank you!!!ReplyCancel

  • January 13, 2017 - 6:19 AM

    Mary Beth Miller - I have had this tab with this post open on my computer for a few weeks because I like to come back and read it often. I live in a little old dark farmhouse so I need to be reminded to embrace it and work with what I have. And for the long days of winter I also need to be reminded to focus on the positive. Thank you for your words!ReplyCancel

    • January 17, 2017 - 4:28 PM

      Erin Hensley - I love that you have kept this open for so long Mary! I’m glad it is helping you so much.ReplyCancel

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