Light is an essential element in photography. The very word photography was created by combining the Greek words for light and writing. You might not have thought of this before, but when you hit your shutter release you are actually writing with light.
Today there are very sophisticated flashes both on and off cameras that can produce stunning images. However, natural light provides a warm and soft feel that is both flattering and beautiful on must subjects.
I’ve compiled a few tips for the next time you want to use natural light for a picture.
Consider the time of day
Morning and late afternoon sun creates a soft light while midday sun casts strong shadows. For portraiture and event photography I prefer a softer light. It tends to be more flattering and creates a warmer feel for your image. Keep these tidbits in mind when choosing the type of effects you would like your photography to portray.
Position your subject to achieve your desired look
There are several different ways you can use natural light. One is that you allow the light to fall directly on your subject. Note that if you are photographing a person he or she may squint looking directly at the sun. This can be easily remedied by moving the subject under shade.
Another method is to position your subject with his or her back to the sun while you hold a reflector in front of them to catch the sun’s light and evenly cast it back on the subject This also creates a warm backlight for their hair which can further separate them from the background and bring your eye directly to the subject.
If you are looking to achieve natural light pictures indoors, try positioning your subject by a window. Having your subject directly face the window will create a more even light. When you have them sit or stand with a shoulder to the window you will create a dramatic look where one side of their face is lit while the other is in shadow. Keep in mind that the closer you are to the window the stronger your light will be.
Make adjustments to your liking.
Check your camera settings
You can choose how sensitively you want your camera to respond to light by adjusting your ISO (or film speed). A higher ISO or film speed is great for low light situations. However, the quality of your image changes with different ISO settings. Many camera bodies produce grainy images at a higher ISO so you may want to keep yours under 400 for a more crisp look.
A higher aperture (lower number) will let in plenty of light while blurring your background and bringing more attention to your subject. For portraiture and still photography you can set your shutter speed accordingly.
Your camera’s manual will give the exact details on how to handle this but try playing around with the settings to see what works best for you. The best way to learn is by practice, so get out your camera and start seeing what ways you can use natural light in your next photo.
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