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When properly used, natural light can be beautiful and make your subjects look flattering. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind when shooting with the sun as your only light source.
Spend a day studying the different shapes of light
Light changes with every hour, sometimes with every minute. I’m sure you’re familiar with the classic saying that the best time to go out shooting is either dusk or dawn. That can be true but not always. At the beginning and the end of the day , natural light is softer, mellower and it wraps around things easier, also softening the shadows.
Shooting in midday , you will find that both light and shadow are much stronger. You should know how to make the best of every type of light ,at every hour. Try this experiment : get up early and place an object, let’s say a ball , outside and observe the changing of light with each passing hour. It might not be the most entertaining experiment in history, but by recording it, you should come to a clear understanding of how it works and this will enable you to best pick your times for shooting outside.
Use reflectors :
A natural light portrait can make a terrific photo , however there is one problem you’ll have to face most of the times, regardless of how soft the light is. Because the human figure isn’t flat , shadows will often form in the eye sockets. The solution to this problem are reflectors. A reflector will direct existing light where you want it, in this case your subjects face. Of course you will require an assistant to hold it or you can use a reflector holder.
© Sergiu Aursulesei.
If you’re out shooting landscapes in broad daylight , using certain filters will help make the best of lighting conditions. Circular polarizers will make a clear blue sky look amazing in contrast with land. They’ll also reduce reflections on water surfaces and allow you to “see through”.
Neutral density filters, or ND’s , are especially useful when shooting in powerful sunlight, as they help suppress unwanted highlights.
Backlighting is a technique where you use powerful sunlight, but instead of having your subject look towards the sun, they turn around. There are two ways to use this technique. You either let your subject become darker, and focus on the silhouette, or, have the sun behind them and use a reflector to cast the light on them from the opposite direction. The reflected light will be softer than backlight and it’ll look more dramatic. The background might be blown ,but your goal is to have the subject properly exposed, not the background.
Shoot wide open:
Use a wide open aperture, such as f2.8 or more. It will allow you to shoot in early mornings and evenings and create that dramatic bokeh effect that will separate your subject from the surroundings.
Photo and article © Sergiu Aursulesei.