Light is the most important element of photography – the word photography literally means ‘drawing with light.’ Without light, the photograph cannot exist. When you click the shutter, light enters the camera, transferring the image onto the film or converting it into electric signals that then turn into the pixels in a digital photograph.
But what is the importance of natural lighting? Light is one of the key characteristics in altering the style of a photograph, and natural light can make your photograph look so much more dynamic than using artificial lighting.
In this post we will discuss:
- The benefits of natural lighting
- Natural lighting and artificial lighting in photography
- Daylighting and photography
- Different seasons
Benefits of natural lighting
- Affordability. You don’t need to spend any money on artificial lights to take a good photograph.
- Versatility. You can use natural light for portraits, or landscapes, or any other type of photograph – and it will look good every time.
- Variety. Because of the ever-changing position of the sun, you can take a variety of photographs which all have significantly different moods.
Natural lighting and artificial lighting in photography
We would recommend starting with natural lighting in photography as it is more affordable, versatile and offers more variety. However, if you are interested in artificial lighting there are some great alternatives available.
Daylighting and photography
Time of day is one of the most important aspects to consider when taking your photographs. The position of the sun in the sky proves to have big differences in how photos look. There’s not necessarily a best or worst time of day, but it all depends on what kind of style you’re going for. The position of the sun can alter colour, composition and depth in your photos.
Sunrise is the most ideal time of day to get an effortlessly breath-taking image. At sunrise, the sun is low on the horizon line which creates a soft, diffuse light that is less directional and easier to manipulate. One of the benefits of natural lighting at sunrise is that the sun acts as a giant softbox. Colours will appear as glowing pastels on your camera.
This is convenient for the early risers, as it is practically impossible to take a bad photo, even a couple of hours after sunrise. When the sun is low in the sky it also creates interesting shadows and compositions.
During the day, the sun is higher on the horizon, which makes it more difficult to manipulate. As the sun is overhead, it is an intense light and coming in from all directions, but is still possible to take great pictures. Having the bright sun in the frame creates vibrant images.
When shooting during the day, the weather also impacts how the picture looks. An overcast day will create a flat, dull light. Brighter sunlight creates more colour and contrast. It’s up to you to decide the mood of your photograph. In a landscape, for example, a higher-intensity light will create a more vibrant image as the sunlight will provide depth and make the colours stand out. A less intense light will create a duller, more moody photo. A hard light will also produce more defined edges and shadows, so that’s something to bear in mind.
Dusk, like sunrise, creates a nice low glow, as the sun is low on the horizon. The sunset is also referred to as ‘golden hour’ as it casts a golden light. The position of the sun creates beautiful lighting and the colours present on camera as deep, muted tones. The dusk will create a soft quality image and it is also a good time for experimenting with grain and texture.
This is a great time of day to get some aesthetically pleasing shots, but because of the rapidly falling light, you will need to keep on top of your settings so you don’t get underexposed photos. Keep checking the exposure and ISO as the light falls.
Take your pictures promptly, as once the sun sets and the golden hour ends, the sun will become a violet-blue colour. If you want to know exactly when the perfect time to capture your golden hour shots is, you can use the Photographer’s Ephemeris app to help you.
It’s also important to note that the light will create a different colour temperature depending on the season. Due to the changing daylight hours and the climate, the light simply looks different in the summer than it does in the winter. Photographs taken in the winter will look desaturated and cool, and photographs taken in the summer will have warmer tones.
As mentioned before, there is no perfect time to take your photos, as it depends on what kind of style you are looking to create. The more you experiment with natural lighting techniques in photography you will get a better feel for what kind of lighting you like, and then you can create a consistent look across your body of work.
The more time and effort you put into your locations and into understanding where the light is coming from and how you want it to look in the frame, the more you can interpret it and be consistent with the light you shoot in.
If you require photography that involves natural lighting, you can have your photos taken by an affordable professional on-demand photographer at Splento.
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