Natural Light Photography for Beginners

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INTRODUCTION
A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON SUNLIGHT

Welcome back to the lighting basics tutorial series, and in this one, we shall talk about natural light photography. I am sure that almost all of us see sunlight every single day (unless you are some sort of caveman or vampire), but how much do we really understand about sunlight in terms of photography?

I am pretty sure that most “normal” people won’t even bat an eyelid on how sunlight changes at different times. But as a photographer, we need to understand that and make full use of the situation to take good photographs.

Maybe I should put it in the other way – Photographers are forced to work with the natural lighting conditions when outdoors, simply because we cannot control it. With that, let us dive into looking at sunlight from a different perspective.

 

CONFESSION
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE

Quick, hide your wallets!

There are affiliate links and advertisements on this page! Whenever you buy things from the evil links that I recommend, I will make a commission.

Nah. These are just things to keep the blog going, and allows me to give more good stuff to you guys. So thank you if you decide to pick up my recommendations!

 

 

NAVIGATION
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Section A
What’s so exciting?

Section B
Different Time, Different Light

Section C
Bad Weather

Closing
What’s Next?

 

 

SECTION A
WHAT’S SO EXCITING ABOUT THE SUN?

We are probably so used to the sunlight that it goes – what is so special about it? What is exciting about it? We just need to pay a little more attention to sunlight, and you will notice that the quality of light is actually different at various times of the day. Yes, it is the same sun but it differs from time-to-time.

 

Time Light Intensity Color Temperature
Sunrise Very soft Warm
Morning Soft Bluish
Midday Very harsh White
Afternoon Harsh White / Bluish
Sunset Very soft Warm
Twilight Very soft Blue

Infographic - Lighting at different times of day

That of course, the quality of light is also dependent on the weather conditions – A storm can destroy a nice sunset, and clouds can soften a harsh midday sun.

 

 

SECTION B
DIFFERENT TIME, DIFFERENT LIGHT

After learning that sunlight can be different at times of the day, just how do we make use of it to improve our photos exactly? A good photographer should know how to choose the best time to bring out their shots carefully. So here is how light is like at different times, and how you can use it to your advantage.

EARLY MORNING

The day starts with sunrise, and after which, a nice baby blue with a touch of orange. Perfect time for the portrait photographers to be out, as the light during this time is soft and gentle. A little bit on the blue side, but can’t hurt too much. Plus, it is not as hot as the afternoon sun and will not melt humans.

Morning: Nice soft blues and a little orange

 

LATE MORNING TO AFTERNOON

As the sun rises up in the late morning, it starts to become an intense white light. This is the time where most photographers tend to avoid, because the lighting is very harsh and it casts hard shadows. If you are into portrait photography, do look out as the sun is directly above of your talent. It will cast “dark eye rings”, and it just doesn’t look good.

But mind you, it is not wrong to shoot during the day either. It is only during the day, that you can get a nice blue sky on a clear day.

Midday photography
Midday Blues: Harsh sunlight, but blue skies.

 

EVENING

As the day progresses, the light turns from intense white to a tint of orange. The slightly later part of the evening is also another nice window for outdoor photography with not-so-crappy light… You will need to deal with the orange tint somehow though.

 

GOLDEN HOUR – SUNSET/SUNRISE

Ever wonder why some photographers like to shoot during sunrise and sunset so much? It is because that only in this short window of time that the sun offers gentle soft golden light that makes everything look awesome – No Photoshop required. The golden hour, as we like to call it, is the best time to do your outdoor photography.

Sunset photography
Golden Hour: Perfect for photography

 

DUSK

Think that there is nothing nice to shoot after the sun goes down? Think again. Depending on your luck, dusk can sometimes offer you a nice color transition from blue to magenta to pink.

Dusk: Blue, magenta, pink.

 

NIGHT

Just… dark. This is the time for you to play with light trails and light painting. Maybe even catch the stars if the place is dark enough without city lights.

Night: Time for light trails.

 

SECTION C
WHAT IF THE WEATHER IS BAD?

Sure thing, we cannot expect the weather to be clear all day, all year round. When the weather is bad, what do we do? How do we make the best use of a seemingly bad situation for photography?

 

CLOUDY/GLOOMY

Sometimes, an overcast sky with gloomy rain clouds is not that bad. An overcast sky could mean very diffused sunlight perfect for outdoor portrait shoots. Storm clouds are even better because they add a lot of drama to your photo.

Storm: It’s dramatic

 

RAIN

Rain is the only time where you will get puddles everywhere. Why not make full use of it? Reflections? If you are lucky enough, you may even get rainbows after the rain.

Rain: Puddles of reflection

 

STORM/HAIL/TORNADO

You mad bro? Go take shelter in somewhere safe.

 

CLOSING
WHAT’S NEXT?

Morning, afternoon or night, mastering the use of natural light is the very first step in photography. After all, it exists almost everywhere and we cannot escape from it. At the end of the day, you only need to adjust your thinking of sunlight “in terms of photography”.

It may not be an easy task for some to accomplish, but as long as you go out there to practice, you will be churning out better photos in due time. So your part in reading is done. Go out there and shoot.

If you have any questions, please feel free to drop them in the comments section below. Hope this guide has helped you and have fun!

 

Previous Lesson: Basic Rules of Light   Next Lesson: Flash Photography Basics


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