Light is perhaps the most important ingredient that makes photography possible. Without light, there would be no photography. And imagine living in a world devoid of photos!
On that note, we thought of taking a quick look at the importance of natural light and how aspiring photographers can make the best use of it to amplify their creativity in terms of photography.
Natural light basically refers to any light that comes from the sun (directly or indirectly). The hour before sunset and the one after sunrise are referred to as the golden hours since they provide the subject in question with an enviable warm glow. These are typically a pet favorite of most photographers who work with natural light outdoors and indoors.
Here’s a look at different types of natural light and their key characteristics:
Also referred to as ‘hard light’, direct light comes from the sun and is at its best on a cloudless afternoon. High in contrast and hard in quality, direct light is generally a neutral white at noon and gets warmer as the day progresses.
Diffused or ‘soft light’ is usually associated with overcast conditions, evening time, foggy days or shaded areas. Its degree of coolness differs depending on what time of the day it is (soft light is relatively warmer in the afternoons) and offers low contrast, delivering soft shadows.
When you plan a photo shoot indoors, window lighting is of paramount importance when we speak about natural light. It could be direct or diffused, depending on the outdoor conditions and position of the window. Photographers often experiment with the light intensity by placing the subject (or the camera) in different positions and various angles, varying the distance from the source.
There are various other types of light, too, including (but not limited to):
- Nautical Twilight
- Astronomical Twilight
- Civil Twilight
- Dappled Light
Most of these are inherently good enough to create excellent shooting conditions, but some of them might require you to add artificial light (depending on what your specific requirements are).
Photography Tips to Make the Most of Natural Light
Tip #1: Recce matters!
Make sure you visit the exact location at the exact time of the day you plan to shoot in order to gauge the amount, intensity, quality and color of light present over there. A location recce can truly help you figure out the best camera settings and give you a heads up about what the shooting conditions would be like, so you can be prepared to bring out real quality in your pictures. Understand the environment, take note of the natural and manmade elements present around the subject position, gauge the light conditions at different times of the day, take several test shots and be prepared for everything well in advance.
Tip #2: Understand your tools
You might have the best photography tools, but if you do not understand what works best in what kind of shooting conditions, you will be left confused or even worse, dissatisfied with your pictures. Knowing the shooting environment, as we stated above, is essential, but knowing your equipment is even more crucial. Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, f-stop, reflectors, diffusers, RAW, white balance, saturation – they aren’t just part of photography jargon – you need to be 100% sure of what you expect from your images and how you can use your photography equipment to bring it to fruition.
Tip #3: Play around with window light
There is nothing quite as amazing as a photograph that makes optimal use of natural window light in different ways. The key to clicking great pictures using window light is:
- knowing the ins and outs of window light
- understanding what kind of photograph needs what kind of light
- innovation in terms of how your images are unique
There are several ways in which you can experiment with not just the light, but also the effect that it casts over a picture. Almost every form of photography specialization requires you to acknowledge, understand and learn the nuances of natural light – from portrait photography, documentary photography and landscape photography, to sports photography, event photography, food photography and wedding photography.
If you are contemplating a career in photography or have a keen interest in the subject as a hobby, we hope these pointers help you up your game. In case you are wondering where you can get started in terms of making photography your profession, don’t forget to check out our comprehensive degree courses in photography.