How to use natural light to take amazing photos

The proper light is one of the key ingredients of every successful photograph – probably even an amateur knows that. Being able to use natural light is an exceptionally important skill to have. It’s much cheaper as there’s no need for any lamps and other equipment. You can practice as much as you want and take photos from dawn till dusk (or even at night if the sky is clear and the moon shines bright). So how can you learn to use natural light for photography? Websites like offer a wide range of courses that may be a valuable asset, but there are some tips you can follow to try it on your own.

Know different types of light

Natural light has many advantages, but its downside is that you can’t control it – it’s you who has to adjust, not the other way around. Sunlight changes during the day and it doesn’t always change in the same way – it all depends on the weather, time of the year and the day, or your location –  so if you want to have the ideal light for your shoot, you need to learn how to recognize various types and plan your day accordingly. 

The lower sun casts softer shadows – it means softer light, so if that’s what you want, consider shooting during mornings or evenings. The high sun means more shadows on your subject. 

However, if it’s rainy or cloudy, and the sun is not visible, it doesn’t mean you can’t go shooting. In fact, this kind of weather may provide you with even better light as it’s not as direct and bright. 

In the case of the cloudless sky, you can look for some shadow to make the light in the photo look softer; it will not be as bright as direct sunlight. This is the best way to naturally reflect the light without a reflector. If you want that effect, shoot under the trees, between buildings, under a bridge, etc.

Find your angle

When you know at what time you like the sunlight best, you still need to figure out where to put your subject. A photo with the light behind the subject will be totally different than the one with the light from the front or from the side. It’s best to always try all possible angles, but it’s good to know your favorite. When the light is behind you and in front of the subject, it will reduce or even eliminate shadows, side light will always add more character and dynamic while the backlit produces glows and shadows. 

Know your camera

It’s important not only to know what kind of light you need for your next shoot but also to understand your camera and its different settings. Automatic mode is good for the beginners but you should start discovering and experimenting as soon as possible to be able to use your gear’s full potential. Thanks to the manual mode, you will be able to adjust the settings as you go, whenever the light suddenly changes or your subject moves. 

Learn how to use other equipment

Reflectors, diffusers, and flags may sound mysterious right now, but if you want to experiment with natural light, you need to make friends with them. 

Reflectors are relatively cheap and can be extremely helpful whenever you want to redirect more light to your subject. You can also use plain white cardboard to improvise if you don’t have a professional reflector.

A diffuser is to be placed between the light and your subject if you don’t want any sharp transitions between the sunlight and shadows.

A flag is for blocking the light. You can use anything dark to achieve it, or even place your subject in the way of the light.

Indoor photography

When it comes to indoor photography and natural light, it’s all about windows and here you can experiment as much as with the angles outdoor. Try different sides and distances from your window, make your subject move around and do it yourself as well. You may shoot with uncovered windows and almost direct sunlight, and you can try using some thin, almost transparent curtains – depending on their pattern you may achieve some interesting results. 

Night photography

It’s not as evident, but the moon and stars provide you with natural light as well. However, you will need more tricks to make it work. It’s better to use a tripod, as it’s more difficult for the camera to find focus when there’s little light; you can also use a timer to avoid shaking the camera while you press the button. Plus, open the shutter to allow it to gather all available light. Every camera, even a poorer one, can do long exposure photography which may bring really amazing effects during nighttime. 

Don’t be discouraged

No one becomes an excellent photographer in an instant and each new skill requires some time of practice and honing. Don’t be afraid to try different things and look for your own style. A photographer is someone who never stops learning and experimenting. So don’t read too much – get your camera and go exploring!

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