Shooting with natural light has a special charm. There is a lot of air, space and freedom in such photographs. With natural light, you can shoot in any genre — make vivid reports and delicate portraits, hunt for street masterpieces and shoot cutting-edge fashion.
But not always the weather allows you to realize all your ideas in nature. And then the question arises of how to simulate sunlight in the studio. We have put together a detailed guide: we tell you how to do it and what equipment you will need.
What light source to use
To simulate diffused daylight, it is better to use a constant light source. It takes a long time to set up pulsed light for these purposes — it takes time even for experienced photographers. It is best used if you want to create the illusion of a harsh midday sun.
When exposing a light source, pay attention to its height and direction. The angle of incidence should follow the direction of sunlight.
Choose gray as the background. It is the most versatile — the shadows on it will look almost black, and the highlights — almost white.
Create Soft Diffused Light
Daylight, which photographers love so much, is soft and diffused. The sun’s rays pass through the clouds, which act as a diffuser. Peep at nature and use scattering equipment — softboxes and umbrellas. A diffuser panel will also come in handy — it is included in the 5‑in‑1 reflector kits.
Walls and ceilings can be used as a diffuser. This method is suitable for shooting for the catalog.
Put the flash next to the wall, and do not point at the model, but turn it towards the wall. Reflected from a white surface, the light simulates the soft lighting of the middle of the day. This will create eye-catching highlights and shadows on the face.
To diffuse the light even more, place a diffuser panel between the reflector that faces the wall and the model. This way you will get light similar to the light from a large window.
With this method of lighting, it is important to remember that the color of the walls and ceiling will play a big role. Colored ones will add toning to the photo, which you have to tinker with during processing, and black ones will work like a flag and absorb light instead of reflecting it.
The same method is suitable for those who use on-camera flash. An impulse directed at the face of the model will make the picture flat, and the glare will be unusual for the eye and therefore unnatural. So take advantage of the environment. And if you have to shoot in dark interiors, do not forget about the plastic insert that extends from the external flash. It also acts as a diffuser.
Creating Hard Sunlight
You will need one light source, which will act as the sun. Raise it higher, place it diagonally and point it at the model. The angle of incidence of light should be sharp — be guided by how the sunlight falls.
Such a scheme will give hard shadows, including on the background, emphasize the depth of space. It can be used for fashion shoots and creative projects.
Pay attention to what is on the opposite side of the light source. If the wall is white, then it will act as a reflector and give soft shaded shadows from the less lit side. If it is black, then the shadows will be deeper, and the picture will be more voluminous.
Create sunset light
If, according to the idea, the setting sun is needed, and due to bad weather or for other reasons, shooting in the open air cannot be done, then the studio and imitation of natural light will come to the rescue.
You will need a reflector and a warm orange filter. It will add warm tones to the light. In nature, the sunset sky contrasts with cold shadows, so in post-processing, you can add a little blue to the shadows.
What settings to set
To create the effect of natural light, the flash should not be strong, so adjust the power of the equipment. Try taking test shots at 2.0 light output.
Don’t forget to open the aperture — for those who like to shoot in daylight, shooting wide open is more familiar. An open aperture will increase background blur and add airiness to the image. From a technical point of view, an open aperture is needed so that more light enters the matrix and the picture is clearer, without marriage.
Working with masks and flags
We love light so much for the way it plays with shadows. And in order for there to be interesting shadows, the light must “stumble” on something.
Arrange your own shadow theater on the set. From a material strong enough for your purposes — foam board, plywood, thick paper — cut out stencils. It can be a silhouette of a window frame, an imitation of blinds, geometric patterns, blades of grass, foliage, and whatever else comes to your mind.
You can use the “grandmother’s chest” arsenal — openwork napkins, artificial flowers.
Studio equipment manufacturers offer sets of light gobo masks that can be conveniently attached to a tripod or reflector. Ask about the masks at the studio where you are going to shoot — they probably have several.
In order for the shadows to be sharp, remove the diffusers — it is best to use a reflector with curtains. The closer the stencil is to the background, the sharper the shadows. Try positioning the mask at a distance of 50 centimeters from the light source and then experiment.
Practicing photographers who use this technique in studios often check their followers for attentiveness, asking under what conditions the photo was taken. As a rule, most of the answers that the picture was taken in natural light. As you can see, it is not so difficult, and the result is almost the same.