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 abil­i­ty to work with nat­ur­al light is basic for a pho­tog­ra­ph­er. With­out it, no shoot­ing out­side the pho­to stu­dio is pos­si­ble / pixabay.com

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.

The set­ting sun out­lines a lumi­nous out­line around the cou­ple and cre­ates a cozy mood with warm light / pixabay.com

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.

The sit­u­a­tion when a per­son is immersed in deep shad­ow when shoot­ing against the sun plays into the hands of the pho­tog­ra­ph­er if you need to pho­to­graph the sil­hou­ette / pixabay.com

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.

Shoot­ing through the blinds on a sun­ny day gives inter­est­ing dynam­ic stripes on the mod­el / Pho­to: Eliza­ve­ta Chechevit­sa / instagram.com/chechevic_a

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.

A good com­po­si­tion and an unusu­al angle can trans­form a plot that seems bor­ing at first glance / pixabay.com

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.