Tips Every Photographer Needs to Know About Using Natural Light

Natural Light Photography: Tips Every Photographer Needs to Know

Curious about natural light photography? Read on to discover how to make the most of natural light in your images.

Did you know the most professional quality photos are taken in natural light?

Whether you’re an amateur or a professional photographer, learning to use natural light is probably the biggest thing you can do to improve the quality of your work. Mastering the use of natural light will take your photography skills to the next level.

The ability to use natural light well can be more important than choosing a subject to photograph. Lighting, especially natural light, can transform the appearance of your subject.

Natural light, in particular, can be used to creates many different looks from the same subject. Keep reading for more information on how to use natural light photography to take better photos.

Natural Light Photography

First, let’s take a moment to look at how natural light affects your photos.

Natural light must originate from the sun. However, there are three components of natural light that affect how it changes your photos: direct sunlight, diffuse skylight, and bounced light.

Direct sunlight makes your photo look warmer and gives it higher contrast. Diffuse skylight makes your photo cooler and has less contrast.

Finally, bounced light has qualities of reflecting an object.

Light Variation

The relative amount of these types of light is determined by the time of day.

The combination of these forms of light during each time of day results in a unique white balance, or contract.

There are 3 factors that influence how light affects your subject. The further the time from high noon, the closer the sun is to the horizon. This means sunlight has to pass through more atmosphere and bounces off the ground toward the subject.

This results in photos with lower contrast. As time passes from noon, more of the sun’s blue light is filtered by the atmosphere and light appears warmer.

Weather also affects how your photos turn out when using natural lighting.

Lighting variation is determined by the extent and type of cloud cover. Clouds change the percentages of direct sunlight and diffuse skylight.

This changes the contrast and color temperature of the sun’s light.

Tips and Tricks

Photographers often avoid midday photo sessions because the natural lighting at this time is mainly direct, downward sunlight.

This is usually the least desirable type of natural light. You can overcome the challenges of midday photography by using a polarizing filter to manage contrast or converting to black and white to take advantage of the high contrast midday light.

The hours before sunset and after sunrise are called the “golden hours” for using natural light photography. There is a horizontal light that gives your subject a warm glow and casts long shadows.

Check your camera’s auto white balance to make sure it doesn’t counteract this warm glow. The lighting during this time is most dramatic and it’s the most likely time for your camera to make a mistake when it comes to exposure.

Printing Your Photos

If you are interested in knowing more about natural light photography, there is much more to learn. Understanding how light works is the first step in learning how to use it to take amazing photos.

When you’re ready to print your photos, get a quote here.

Austin Terrill

Austin is the founder and CEO of Print Peppermint. He loves art, graphic design, printing, music, recording gear, synthesizers, and ice cream. He lives in Berlin with his wife and two children.
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