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.

Illus­tra­tion: pixabay.com

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.

Pho­to: liepa_s / Insta­gram

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.

Sun­set light has warmth in the high­lights and cold­ness in the shad­ows. Pho­to: ivanchenko / Insta­gram

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.

Even carved mon­stera leaves can be used as a sten­cil. Pho­to: ivanchenko / Insta­gram

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.

Gobo masks are a pro­fes­sion­al shad­ing tool. Illus­tra­tion: falcon-eyes.ru

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.