Natural light, unless you’re in the studio, is usually your primary source of illumination. Because these natural light sources can’t be controlled, many people find it to be a hindrance which needs to be overcome. You wait for clouds to pass or you have to move people or objects around in order to get the best light meaning you lose spontaneity or drama from a shot.
However, if you’re out and about taking candid shots you’re unlikely to have a reflector, diffuser and flash guns at hand so you’re going to have to learn how to control natural light which means you’re going to have to change how you take photographs. Controlling natural light sources could enhance your photographs and possible make it as better as it can be.
If you do not know how to handle and control natural light sources, here is an article that will teach you how to do so. Learning to control natural light sources in Photography is now easy because of this mini-guide.
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If you’d wanted to exercise patience as an artist you’d have become a painter, right? Ok, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to have to wait for the right natural light to come along. That might mean waiting a few moments or a few hours. I was working with a photographer who, when he saw a landscape that he wanted to shoot, would wait almost a year, 51 weeks to be precise. He would retrace his steps back to the location and spend a fortnight or so in the area waiting for the light and weather to become as near as possible identical to the scene he had seen the year previously. It might never turn out exactly right but in order to increase your chances of capturing a great shot you have to wait.
You don’t always have to wait a year to get your shots but light changes throughout the day, clouds break and reform, the sun sets which drastically changes the nature, colour and atmosphere of the light. Plan ahead, imagine what a scene would look like later that evening or early the next morning. Check weather forecasts to see what the skies are going to be like, overcast and foggy won’t be great for shooting kids in the park it will mean you have great light for soft portraits and studies in diffuse light.
You can’t diffuse natural light from the source so it may be necessary to find soft light and shady areas the shoot, particularly if you’re shooting on a very bright day where direct sunshine will be very harsh and flatten your image. If it’s possible you can ask your subjects to move into shade, you can move objects out of direct sunlight or you can specifically look for shots in places where the light is already diffuse. If you’re in direct sun yourself you might think that the shade is too dark to shoot in but once you meter the light and adjust your f stops & shutter speed you’ll be surprised how much light there is available.
Stretching a gauze over a frame makes for a reasonable diffuser that you can use over small subjects but larger set-ups, family groupings, buildings and landscapes for example are impossible to diffuse, again you have to wait for mother nature and a cloud to do that for you.
The only way to control hard, harsh or direct light is to move yourself and your camera. While your task as a photographer is often much easier if the sun is somewhere behind you great shots can still be achieved when the sun is somewhere in front of you, position a building between it and your subject, wait for clouds or the sun to go down, put it behind your subject for silhouettes or use a reflector or a fill flash. It might be counter intuitive but using a flash on a bright sunny day can improve your shots no end if the sun is too bright. The sun and the weather are going to do what they are going to do, you can’t fight against it so use your initiative when documenting it.
Direct light isn’t only available in the great out doors, there area many ways to take advantage of sunlight coming through a window or open door illuminating your subject. The results can range from romantic and picturesque to fully dramatic, how you handle it is up to you, just don’t be afraid of it or let it got to waste when you’re given the opportunity to use it.
Using reflectors is a simple way of directly controlling sunlight. You could carry them around with you, use a sheet of paper or position your subject against something bright and colourful to in-fill shadow with coloured light. You can use them to illuminate a shot that would otherwise be too dark to take or to soften contrast if you’re shooting in light that’s coming from either side and creating more shadow than you want.
Almost anything that’s flat, bright or shiny can be used as a reflector including clothing, buildings, pooled water, snow or the sand on the beach, you just have to position yourself and your subject in order to take advantage of the reflective properties of your surroundings.
Multiple Natural Light Sources
Sounds like a contradiction, there is only one natural light source. But as we’ve seen light can be reflected and diffused, broken up through windows and doors, in fact there is no limit to the number of light sources the sun can ultimately create.
One Final Thought about Natural Light Sources
The sources of light may or may not be in frame but whether they are or not they are going to have a big impact on the atmosphere and effect of your picture. It’s only through your own experimentation that you are going to find how to control natural light and ultimately the way you take photographs.