Photo Friday #11 – Natural Lighting Tips

imageIt’s finally Spring (officially!) and this is my favourite time for photographing. The days get longer, the sun starts to appear and the air outside is warmer. After a long winter, plants are gaining life again and blooming, the birds are singing and the air is swarming with creatures large and small.

Here are some tips to help you use natural light when out photographing! These tips can be applied to any kind of photography really, whether it’s animals, flowers, fashion, architecture etc… Lighting is one of the most important things in photography, and getting this right will help your photographs stand out.

#1 Choose your time of day.
The sun creates different lighting at different times of the day. A photography taken at sunrise will look different to one taken in the middle of the day. Now this all depends on what you want your photograph to look like. Sometimes you won’t have the time to pick and choose when you’ll take photographs, but if you do, think wisely! You may have heard of ‘blue hour’ or ‘golden hour’.

‘Blue hour is the time just before the sun has risen and just after the sun has set. On a clear day, there’s enough light in the sky to take photographs without needing external lighting, and it gives photographs a cool blue look. This is the time just after the sunrise and just before sunset in which the light becomes softer and more ‘golden’. A lot of photographers love this time of day, and it can look lovely if that’s what you’re going for. At other times, a harsh midday sun may put across the message that you want. I found two photos that I took in the ‘golden hour’, though in both instances the sun was behind the subject (back-lit). The one on the left created a huge flare, and the one on the right made the subjects a little dark. Nevertheless, you can see the colours! Just google ‘golden hour’ and you’ll find tons of beautiful photographs!

#2 Know the sun.
Not literally, of course! Despite what a lot of people seem to think, bright and sunny days are not always ideal. The sun causes harsh shadows which can be difficult to get rid of, though a fill in flash will help in that situation. Now when photographing it’s key to keep an idea of where the sun is at.
+ Front-lit: The sun is behind you, give light to the front of your subject.
+ Back-lit: The sun is in front of you, giving light to the back of your subject.
+ Side-lit: The sun is at the side.
A front-lit subject will have even lighting, though this can sometimes make the subject look flat so you’ve got to watch out for that! A back-lit subject will give it a silhouette look. A side-lit subject will show the textures and give the photograph depth – it can sometimes look quite dramatic. My favourite lighting would be at dawn/dusk, or on an overcast day. Clouds are a photographer’s best friend – they diffuse the sunlight and create a softer light effect. Below: left is back-lit, right is side-lit.

#3 Take advantage of shadows
On a harshly lit day, shadows can save your shot. They can add interest (as in the photo on the left) but they can also give you a good evenly lit photograph (as on the right). The photo on the left was taken on a really bright day, however the bird was in the shadow on the trees – no harsh sunlight was getting to it. The resulting lighting looks even – though possibly a little flat! The frog photo right at the top was also taken in harsh sunlight, however the pond was hidden away, and was in a shadow.

I really hope these tips have helped you with lighting! Please, any questions ask me!

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  • I am 21 years old, currently studying Wildlife and Media at University and blogging about life, stationery, Filofax, fitness and more.

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