Saturday, January 3, 2015

Ideas for Natural Light Photography

For the month of January, the Boost Your Photography: 52 Weeks Challenge will be focusing on light and lighting. What better place to start then with natural light? This post will explain some of the basics of photographing in natural light situations. (Interested in joining the 52 Weeks Challenge? We are starting a re-boot version kicking off from the beginning. Click here to join in for 2015!)

Why Natural Light

Shooting in natural light means learning and understanding the daily and seasonal changes in the sun and the quality of sun light in different times and places. Natural light is also a great way to learn about the power of light and lighting before worrying about manipulating light with indoor lighting or flashes.

Shooting with natural light does not mean that you can only shoot outdoors. Many, many fabulous natural lighting images are shot inside using windows for ambient lighting. Don't let cold weather or a desire to stay inside keep you from making amazing natural light photographs.

To truly understand natural light and how to use it best in your photographs, it is important to recognize the different types of natural lighting. The next section will discuss the different times of day and the quality of natural light at those times.

The Blue Hour

The Blue Hour is that time for a while just before sunrise and just after sunset when the sky glows with magnificent blue tones. Blue Hour light is extremely flattering for shooting glimmering cities, glowing carnival rides, and shimmering fireworks displays. The contrast between the blue tones of the fading sun light and the bright colors of artificial light bring another level of interest to your photograph. Read more about Blue Hour Photography here.

Subjects to seek out during the Blue Hour include

The Golden Hour

Far better known than its blue counterpart is the Golden Hour. The Golden Hour is a period of around an hour centered on the timing of sunrise and sunset each day. (Read more about a useful app for predicting and using Golden Hour light in the article Must Have Apps to Assist Your Photography.)

Golden Hour light is universally adored by photographers for the warm, golden tones that it adds to a given scene or subject. Golden Hour light also creates long shadows and angular light, which can add subtle definition and depth to your photograph as well.

These two photographs were taken at the same location two days apart. The first was taken during a cloudy, overcast morning, while the second was taken during the full bright light of a Golden Hour sunrise. You can see the immediate impact of the golden light and how it brings out the richness and color of the leaves.

Subjects to seek out during the Golden Hour include

Harsh Midday Lighting

Some photographers claim that they only shoot during the Golden Hour and find the harsher from-above lighting of the middle of the day inappropriate for photography, but I disagree. Midday photography is an interesting time to explore the power of harsh overhead light. 

Subjects to seek out during harsh midday lighting include

Diffused Lighting

This one is more of a type-of-day rather than a time-of-day. Diffused lighting situations occur when light is being bounced around from many places rather than coming from a single direction. Cloudy and overcast days feature diffused lighting. (An inability to find a distinct shadow is a hallmark of diffused lighting.)

Subjects to seek out with diffused lighting include
  • Fog and mist - think nature, roads, bridges, or other subjects that can appear and disappear to lend depth and mystery to your photograph
  • Portraits (Read Portrait Photography Basics)
  • Macro or close-up shots - think jewelry or food photography, where a lack of dramatic shadows brings even lighting

Shoot in Natural Light

Bring your photography out into the light this week by working towards using natural light in your images. Spend some time outdoors or indoors and see how the light varies and impacts your photography.

Share a link or a photograph in the comments below, or consider joining the BYP 52 Weeks Google+ Community (or the brand-new 52 Weeks 2015) to share your weekly photograph and see what others are capturing.

Boost Your Photography: Learn Your DSLR is available from Amazon. Get the most out of your camera with practical advice about the technical and creative aspects of DSLR photography that will have you taking beautiful pictures right away.
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