Using natural lighting for your photography is a handy technique. Apart from the fantastic photos you can produce, you donâ€™t have to drag around a lot of equipment. But it does make you a slave to any available light.
Avoid the Light at High Noon
All photographers know to avoid shooting in full, natural sunlight at midday. It is the worst type of light of the day. It is unforgiving. If you have to take photos at this time of day find some shade for the best results.
There are situations where this will work well for you. If you are taking photos in a naturally dark area (e.g. in a forested parkland area) this can work in your favour when your subject is in high contrast with the environment.
The best times of the day for photography are early morning or late afternoon. The harshness of the midday sun will give you hard shadows whereas early or late afternoon light will soften them.
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Use Natural Light to your Advantage
You often have no choice about the time of day you take your photographs. You may not even have a choice on where your subject is positioned for the photographs either. Look at each situation individually. With experience, you learn to gauge light levels and how to use them to your advantage. For example, use buildings to change your directional light. This can be as simple as moving your shooting position, or opening windows and doors strategically to get the best lighting effect.
Using buildings as light modifiers is effective and easy in the city. Pose your subject in a dirty, littered city alleyway with the harsh midday sun streaming in. Take a photograph. Now, use the same concept in another area with a white building in the background. Compare the two photographs and the effect will be much softer in the second photo.
Photography Techniques using Outdoor Light
Using the light of the sky is the most effective natural light source for digital photography. You do need to keep an eye on the colour temperatures as they create different effects at different times of the day.
Early morning light tends to be yellow, by noon it gets blue, early evening light is orange and, at night, the sky goes the deepest cobalt blue. Even when all the natural light from the day has faded, you can use its natural light for doing digital photography.
Use Natural Light to Enhance you Subject from the Front
Many digital photographers starting out use front lighting. By the photographer putting the natural sunlight behind them, it lights up all the features of the subject.
This is a flat light that gives minimum shadows but the result is there is little depth, no textures and the details are not clear. A landscape photographer would not use this technique as front lighting does not capture the drama of the landscape.
On the other hand, animal and wildlife photographers use front lighting successfully to capture the animal in full detail. Front lighting is also used when photographing buildings to capture all the details of the architecture.
Use Natural Light to Back Light your Subject
Using natural light to back light your subject can have spectacular results. But there are problems like flare, overexposure and high contrast to deal with when using this photography technique.
When backlighting your subject, get as close as you can to eliminate the background, or so the background is out of focus. If you have a problem with flaring in your lens, use your hand to block the direct natural sunlight from hitting the lens of your digital camera.
Use Side Lighting to Soften your Subject
Using side lighting separates your subject from the background and adds a three-dimensional aspect to your photographs. When using natural light as side lighting, the best time of the day is just after sunrise or before sunset in the late afternoon.
As you can see, there is no need to go out and buy expensive equipment. With a little know-how and experimentation, natural light is all you need.