Natural light is the most affordable and cheapest option for photography. It is ideal for beginners, because you can not spend money on additional accessories and focus on the composition of the frame, working with the model, learning the camera settings. Professionals do not disdain natural light, getting beautiful pictures without additional light sources.
The natural source of light — the sun — has features that can both play into the hands and complicate the shooting process if you do not think about them. We share the secrets of how to shoot with natural light in order to get high-quality and interesting shots.
The best time to shoot with natural light
Professionals believe that there is no right or wrong watch for photography. This is true, but shooting at different times of the day and in different weather has its own characteristics.
How to get hard light when shooting with natural light
Hard light is provided by direct sunlight. This is possible in cloudless, clear weather, when the sun is not scattered by clouds. In time, this is the noon hours, when natural light falls almost vertically.
Many photographers advise avoiding shooting during these hours. The sun is so high and shines so strongly that in the photo it is expressed in hard and deep shadows, as well as overexposures. In addition, bright light is unpleasant for the eyes, and it will be difficult for the model to completely relax the face — this can be critical for portraits.
Nevertheless, hard light is often used to show brutality, character. He is not afraid in image and fashion shoots. It can create the right atmosphere if you are photographing architecture, landscapes, street reports. For example, to convey the stuffiness of a summer city, a clear and bright frosty morning, to make the viewer feel the heat of the desert.
How to get soft light when shooting with natural light
Natural sunlight becomes soft when diffused. To get such light — with barely noticeable light and shade transitions, light gentle shadows, without bright highlights — photograph in cloudy weather, when the sky is covered with clouds.
Also, soft warm light in cloudless weather is possible during the so-called “regime time” or “golden hour”. This is a short interval at dawn and sunset, when the sun shines weakly and almost horizontally. Such light is often used in portrait photography, creating a warm golden backlight around the model.
Choose an angle
When shooting with artificial light in the studio, the model and photographer often remain still. Only the power, height, location of the monoblock and light-shaping nozzles change.
Natural light source cannot be controlled. The photographer must carefully monitor their own position and control how the model is positioned relative to the light. For example, if you put the model against the light, the face may appear underexposed, while the background may be overexposed. If the sun shines directly on a person’s face, he will squint.
You also need to remember that the intensity and color temperature of natural light change. The day is brighter than the evening. At sunset, the light is warmer than at dusk.
Look for studios with large windows
Shooting in a studio with natural light is attractive because, without leaving the room, in any weather, you can get a shot with good lighting. This is provided that there is enough light in the selected room of the photo studio. Specify the dimensions of the hall and windows before booking the studio, and also find out which side of the world the room faces.
Model tests and snaps are taken in studios with large windows in natural light (a series of shots taken according to a certain standard, where the figure and face of the model are clearly visible), where it is important to reliably show the parameters of a person and his appearance.
Use a wide-angle lens when shooting in a small room
Lighting with natural light allows you to shoot not only in studios, but also in apartments, where it can be problematic to place artificial light due to the small size of the room. In such cases, a wide-angle lens is perfect — thanks to it, you capture not only the hero, but also the environment in the frame. This will create a portrait with a story, a plot.
In dark apartments, a wide-angle lens should be fast. Read about life hacks for shooting with a wide angle in the material.
Make sure you are not photographing against the sun.
In “regular time” shooting against the light gives a beautiful backlight. During cloudy weather, the light is scattered evenly, giving the same illumination at any position of the model.
If you place the model with its back to the light on a bright sunny day, then two options are possible: either the person will be immersed in a deep shadow, or there will be a solid white veil behind him — overexposure. To avoid this, position the model differently relative to the sun. For example, sideways.
There is another solution to the problem, a technical one — setting exposure bracketing. Then the camera will take several frames — light, medium, dark, which will allow you to combine them in post-processing and get a photo with ideal illumination of the foreground and background.
Read about what exposure is and how to set it up in this text.
Adjust the intensity of the light
From the scorching sun in the open air, you can hide in the shade of buildings or trees. And the natural light in the room is also easy to adjust! To make it weaker, move the model away from the windows. You can also draw a curtain or blinds, put up a flag that blocks the light.
An idea to note: with the help of curtains and blinds, you can get interesting artistic shots by illuminating only part of the hero.
Work with shadows
Shooting through fabrics, meshes, gratings will give an interesting pattern on the model. Also, when shooting in the open air, interesting shadows on the hero can be obtained using branches or flowers. Such solutions are successful for artistic and fashion shootings.
Illuminate an object with a reflector
The reflector is indispensable for shooting with natural light. On a bright sunny day, it will help brighten shadows and diffuse excess light. In the studio, the reflector will give a more uniform cut-off pattern if you highlight the half of the model’s body farthest from the window.
Here we talked in detail about what reflectors are and how to work with them.
Get ready for surprises
Natural light is good for a beginner not only because it is cheap, but it also forces you to constantly adapt, change settings, adapt to situations. For example, cloudy weather can change to sunny. And, if in the first case you tried to make the frame brighter and more contrast, then in the second you will have to deal with overexposure.
The most difficult part is partly cloudy, when you need to constantly change camera settings and color temperature. Sometimes conditions change so often that you don’t have time to press the shutter button when it’s time to change the shooting settings again.
When shooting in the open air, there are additional risks. It can rain or snow at any moment. The easiest way in this case is to use a waterproof case. By the way, here are some more tips for shooting outdoors in difficult weather conditions.
Light is not everything
On the one hand, natural light is a challenge for a beginner, and on the other hand, it teaches him to work in any conditions and quickly adapt to the situation. But interesting light is not the only thing that makes a photo beautiful and effective.
For example, a gothic vampire or witch is unlikely to look good on a beach or even in a forest on a bright sunny day. And the tender bride will look out of place in an abandoned house at dusk.
Choose a location based on the model and its image. Think over the props and decorations, look for favorable angles, pay attention to the composition, change the space for yourself — move the furniture, close the curtains, and use the environment in the open air, creating natural frames, unusual shadows. Then even in the most neutral and soft cloudy lighting you can get an atmospheric portrait.