5 Natural Light Tips for Beginner Photographers - FeltMagnet - Crafts
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5 Natural Light Tips for Beginner Photographers

Charlene is a passionate photographer who loves occasionally sharing experiences of her photographic journey.

This shot was taken using the dappled light through the trees.

This shot was taken using the dappled light through the trees.

How to Use Natural Light in Photography

If you love taking pictures but have a love/hate relationship with your camera—or if you are in awe of your camera but you also want to throw it across the room—then you need to read on.

In photography, there are many different aspects to consider in the quest to find the perfect shot. Yes, the right camera and gear can make all the difference, but technique is paramount because it can make or break a shot. It all boils down to how you use light and shadows. Some times call for a flash, whether it is a studio flash or a through the lens flash; however, there are many times that natural light is all you need.

Key Factors of Natural Light

The main source of natural light will always be the sun. There are different and unique lighting conditions to help you factor in what you want from your shot.

  • Color Tone: You can predict lighting conditions depending on the color tone you want. Midday will be a neutral white, earlier in the day will be a cooler tone, and later (late afternoon) will be a warmer tone.
  • Intensity of the Light: The intensity of the sun can affect your image, making it a high-contrast shot with a lot of definition.
  • Direction of the Light: The direction the light shines, whether vertical or horizontal, produces sharp edges to your shot, which will show the importance of shadows.
  • Quality: You determine the quality of light needed to predict the outcome of your shot. You want either a hard light to emphasize your subject or a soft light to diffuse your subject matter. It all depends on your preference and the purpose of the shot.

5 Different Types of Natural Light (And How to Use Them)

  1. Direct Light
  2. Diffused Light
  3. Reflected Light
  4. Window Light
  5. Dappled Light

1. Direct Light

Direct light shines directly on your subject and makes pronounced contrasts. This is very useful when you need sharp and clear shots, like a wasp perching on a flowering stalk. That shot calls for clarity and detail, so direct lighting is needed for that effect.

Also, learning to use the ‘golden hours’ is essential for the tones you wish to set in your shots. The ‘golden hours’ are often referred to by photographers as the times the sun glows just right and casts a golden hue. This tone makes for spectacular results if you use it right. These two ‘golden hours’ have their own names: The hour before sunset or sunrise is called the ‘blue hour’ and the hour just after sunset or sunrise is called the ‘magic hour’.

Another idea is shooting directly into the sunlight. This backlights your subject and creates a sense of mystique or more intensity to your shot. Constantly trying the different color tones of direct light will make you more proficient at judging and creating the right setting for your shot.

2. Diffused Light

Diffused light is light that is softened, producing softer edges and acts as nature’s ‘softbox’. (A softbox is a piece of photography studio equipment that softens the harsh studio lights.)

If you are working in the harsh sun with no clouds, your portrait will probably be too sharp and there will be too many harsh shadows so to diffuse your subject. Try putting your subject into the shade. This diffused light (whether in the shade of a tree or a wall) is great for portraits and just has a way of adding a softer, more flattering cast to your subject. This touch of whimsy makes for very striking images.

The reflective light is bouncing, casting shadows but still filling the footbridge tunnel  with light.

The reflective light is bouncing, casting shadows but still filling the footbridge tunnel with light.

3. Reflective Light

The reflected light is light that can be bounced off objects to create more contrasts or shadows for vivid and powerful images. For example, you can take a picture in a glass footbridge tunnel, where natural light is reflecting and bouncing off the two building on either side as well as the glass.

There will also be occasions when the light will or can bounce off similar colours and balance the colour contrasts by filling the shadows. It all depends on how you use the reflected light in your shot. As mentioned previously, you need to keep experimenting with light.

Add a dash of glamour to your images by using filtered window light to create a silhouette of your object

Add a dash of glamour to your images by using filtered window light to create a silhouette of your object

4. Window Light

Window light is just how it sounds: The source of light is dependent on the window lit by sunlight. When you are indoors, rather than use artificial light that casts a yellow/orange tinge on your subject (especially if you don’t have studio lighting), you can use a natural light source, and what better than window light. You can place your subject or object directly in front of the window to create an eye-catching silhouette. You can also pull the open blinds down, creating filtered window light that adds a dash of glamour to your images.

5. Dappled Light

Dappled light is filtered light pockets that come through something (like sunlight through trees and leaves) and onto your subject. Or, you can let light filter onto a shaded object through an open doorway. This light will form an interesting contrast of light and shade that creates a flair of flamboyance and creativity to your images.

"Light is at the heart of photography. You can get wrapped up in countless other details, but in the end, it all comes back to light."

© 2020 Charlene Gallant

Comments

Alma Evans on September 13, 2020:

Thank so much Charlene :) Waiting for your new post!!!

Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 13, 2020:

I hope so:) and thank you so much Pamela

Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 13, 2020:

Thank you and sure Alma, It will be my pleasure to do an article about angles and techniques for you:) your interest is much appreciated

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 11, 2020:

This is very good information and your pictures helped show exctly what you described. I think this article will help anyone understand how to get the effect they desire, Charlene.

Alma Evans on September 11, 2020:

Very informative article. It would be good if you share some information about photography angles and techniques. Waiting for that in your next article.

Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 10, 2020:

Thank you so much Alan:)

Alan R Lancaster from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on September 10, 2020:

Some very useful hints, Charlene. I've had a variety of cameras from a Kodak Box Brownie in the late 1950s to my present Canon Powershot. Along the way I've had various box and SLR cameras, each with the use of a Weston light meter and each with a variety of success and failure. It's not the camera, though, is it. It's the eyes that take in the image before aiming the camera and the eye that matches that with what's seen through the lens. The rest (maybe 10%) is the tools you use. The advantage a digital camera has is the ability to send the image as an attachment through the Net, That's a BIG plus in this line of writing.

Keep up the good work Charlie.

Charlene Gallant (author) from Cape Town, South Africa on September 10, 2020:

Thank you so much Ankita...much appreciated:)

Ankita B on September 10, 2020:

Excellent article Charlene. You have shared a very interesting article and I appreciate your choice of photographs too. It was a great read.

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