We’re all familiar with natural light. But have you ever actually stopped for a moment to think, “how is natural light used in photography”?
You can take breathtaking photos using natural light. But what does natural light mean in photography.
Check out our complete guide to photography lighting here.
Try to Shoot in the Morning or Evening
You might have heard before that you shouldn’t be shooting in the middle of the day. Even though the sun is bright, it’s hard to control and has a very harsh appearance. So you might be asking, “How do I find good natural light for photography?” The best source of natural light is either the sunrise or sunset.
Mornings and evenings offer the softest light as the lower sun casts softer shadows.
Morning has the added advantage of being quiet. This allows you to capture a lot of the natural light’s progression along with the sun.
Because the sun is coming in from an angle, you’re left with a lot of shadows.
I’m not much of a morning person. So the majority of my natural light photography occurs in the evening. This is especially true if I’m working during the day.
This time of day is when you get some fantastic sunsets to work with.
If you’ve read my post on photography cliches, you’ll know that I warn beginners against shooting sunsets. Part of the reason for this is that there are much better things to be shooting at that time of day.
When you’ve got a good subject, the soft evening light will flatter their features. This will make for some really cool natural light photography.
Shoot With Hard Light at Noon
While the light in the morning and evening is easier to work with, shooting at midday can also be used effectively. The sunlight at that time of day creates hard light that offers many possibilities to play with harsh shadows.
For example, in the image below, the contrasting shadow adds a strong compositional element that makes the photo much more interesting.
Photograph Magical Images at Twilight
Twilight occurs during the transition between the day and night is happening. It is before the sun rises and after it sets.
This time of day has a cool colour with diffused lighting. If it is almost night, you will have to rely on some artificial light as well. This picture was taken at the end of the day after the sun had already set.
Light Straight on the Subject
So we’ve established the best time to shoot. Now, choose the angle of the light. The first and most obvious option in regards to the angle of the light is to have it shine straight onto the subject. This provides very good outdoor photography lighting.
In the photo below, the sun is behind the photographer. You can see how the soft winter light floods over the model’s face, casting a warm glow.
There were no big and nasty shadows beneath the chin either.
Shoot Into the Sun
Shooting into the sun allows you some interesting lens flare. This produces some really cool shots.
And it overexposed the lens flare so that the face was not underexposed.
This photo will be softer as the shadows are more subtle on the face. And the flare that floods the photo makes an interesting outdoor portrait.