Besides the camera, natural light is a photographer's best friend. Here is a simple guide to help you begin chasing it.
Cover image: Jennilee Marigomen
There is nothing like natural light. It can change moods, spaces, colors, and faces unlike anything else. In 2003, the Light Research Centre published an article that found natural light to increase productivity and mental stability in the workplace and at home.
But we do not need data to know how the sun's rays makes us feel. Living things want (and need) natural light. When we search for an apartment, a picnic spot at the park, or a location for a shoot, we take this kind of light into consideration.
Since its beginnings, photography has championed natural light. It was honed and used as a tool to create depth, atmosphere, and mood in images—whether illuminating the ridges of a mountain range, or piercing through an in-flight beverage.
Because natural light is always changing, it can be a little tricky to photograph. Here are a few tips to help you get on the right track.
Since it's out of your control, using a light meter is especially important when shooting natural light. These devices come on-board most digital cameras. If you are shooting with something a little older, check out Lumu, which turns your phone into a light metering system. These devices measure light, and let you know the "proper" exposure for a photograph, giving you 2 of 3 variables: ISO (the camera's sensitivity to light), shutter speed (how long light enters the camera), and aperture (the amount of light that enters the camera). From there, you can under or over-expose the image, depending on the specific lighting situation. Sometimes the meter does not know what is best!
Natural light changes by the minute. Being able to recognize its spectrum and adapt to these changes are good skills to have (it's actually not too tough). The harshest light occurs at noon on a clear day. This kind of light will wash-out colours, or leave images blown-out if they are not carefully exposed. Softer light occurs when it is diffused by either clouds, rain, fog, and other natural causes. Become comfortable with all light, and what to do when it switches up on you (hello, meter!).
The direction of light is especially important when shooting portraits; nothing is worse than having a subject peer directly into the sun to get the shot. You may have tried the "Okay, on three, open your eyes!" method, but there are better ways. Because you cannot move the sun, move around it. It helps to think in (45°) angles: if you make sure the light hits your subject at a diagonal, it will illuminate them more softly without burning holes in their retinas. Lower that F-stop to get dreamy. Of course, this tip works with animals, sky-high drinks, and pretty much everything in between.
Become comfortable with natural light. Recognize it, befriend it, and use it to your advantage. Keep these simple pointers in mind as you go out to seek some ✨.