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4 Tips for Using Natural Light in Your Photography

Light is a photograph's key ingredient—it's literally the only reason an image can exist.

Many factors contribute to great photography, but none is more important than light. The light source of your photographs will affect their character and mood. While many professional photographers have made a career shooting portraits in a studio, other photographers favor the type of light you can only get from nature.

What Exactly is Natural Light?

The most basic and important form of light is natural light, generally referring to any light created by sunlight.

Natural light is abundant (so you get to practice consistently, free of charge) and, by paying attention to certain factors such as how the sun behaves throughout the day and in different weather conditions, you will learn to see light better, maximize its potential, and apply the basic techniques in any genre of photography.

4 Tips for Using Natural Light in Your Photography

  1. The soft light of dawn and dusk is dominated by oranges and yellows. Midday sun contains more blue light. Sun shining through a layer of clouds on a hot day produces a particularly blue light.

  2. Use a reflector. If you’ve ever seen a film crew working outside, you’ve probably seen someone holding a large, floppy, silver-coated screen. This is a reflector. It bounces sunlight toward the camera’s subject and makes sure they’re always more lit from the front than from the back. This is what allows photographers to produced detailed, high contrast photos of their subjects.

  3. Embrace side lighting. One way to harness sunlight is to limit its direction. By placing your subject indoors, beside a window with an open shade, you can control the flow of light and prevent undesirable backlighting or washouts.

  4. Use a mixture of natural and artificial lighting. Most professional photographers don’t have a purity rule when it comes to natural lighting. A camera flash can enhance an outdoor photo if it’s coming from an effective distance.

When working with natural light, you need to know that the odds won’t always be in your favor. The weather can turn on you at anytime, and the quality of light can go from soft to practically non-existent in a blink of an eye.

In such cases, you need to be prepared.

Get up, go out, and shoot!

Like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said, "Knowing is not enough, we must apply”.

We all know that the best kind of photographer is one who photographs consistently, experiments, and keeps learning. Be that kind of photographer.  Become a student of light—be aware of it, observe it, and use it to create magic.

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