I have a fantastic front yard for taking pictures. There is a giant full tree that provides plenty of open shade. Open shade to photography = Smooth, even light on skin, no glaring sun to make anyone squint or make the image overblown with light, and lovely catchlights in the eyes.
Sometimes we concentrate so much on the composition and subject matter of a photo that we forget to pay attention to the actual light and shadow cast on my image. Here are some examples of good vs bad when it comes to light and shadow.
EXAMPLE #1-SUN RAYS
This image is SOOC (Straight off the camera), no Photoshop fixing. As much as I adore this photo, I hate that half of my nephew's face is cast in light. Look at the left side and see how my son's face has a smooth, even coloring and the catchlight is in his eyes. That ray of sunshine is really making a bright line through the middle of my nephew's face, distracting from the image as a whole.
To compare, here is a photo taken at the same time of day with my subjects moved to a different location in the yard, avoiding the sun rays that were peeking through the branches (see the bright spots on the grass behind them?). Both faces have a soft glow on one side as the sun was shining that day but there are no distracting rays or bright spots and both boys still have nice catchlights in their eyes.
EXAMPLE #2-TIME OF DAY
Here is my nephew again, just outside the fence of our yard. The sun was starting to go down so the tree wasn't providing any of the open shade. See how bright the fence is and the dark shadows on his face? It's much more blown out because the sun is shining too directly on my subject.
Same spot as the photo above but at a different time of day. I took this photo in the late evening, sun was setting and therefore it was starting to get a bit too dark inside the fence & directly under the tree. I pulled my cousin's son in front of the fence, still slightly under some of the shade from the tree, but where the sun's light was being diffused through the houses across the street. The lighting is lovely, catchlights in his eyes and coloring is more true to life.
These poor children can't even open their eyes, the sun is so bright and reflecting off the lake (which they are facing). Look at all the dark shadows on their faces too.
I moved them into open shade, still keeping them facing the lake so that the light would reflect into their faces, but allow them to keep their eyes open for the photo.