If I had to pick only 1 way to light my subjects for the rest of my days, it would be natural light. Though artificial lights like flash & softboxes can be useful when continuous control is required, I still find the quality of light provided by the sun to be the most appealing. I’d like to share the different types of natural light as well as a couple pros & cons for each.
Natural light based on location:
Window light (the easiest way to use natural light. Simply place someone beside a window and you’re set)
Pro: located in most buildings & easy to access.
Con: Can cause a harsh shadow on the opposite side of the subject.
Open Shade (having a person under the shade and facing towards the sun)
Pro: Gorgeous shaping of facial features and soft shadows.
Con: I honestly can’t think of any!
Closed Shade (when your subject is not only under a shaded area, but also when they are facing away from the sun)
Pro: Even light without harsh shadows.
Con: Flare is a possibility which may wash out your image.
Backlit (when your subject is between you & the sun)
Pro: Dreamy images with lens flare.
Con: Could cause exposure issues/subject may become a silhouette.
Speckled (or any area underneath trees or other patterned object which turns sunrays into shapes)
Pro: Can make an interesting texture on your subject.
Con: Can be distracting & cause exposure issues.
Natural light based on the time of day:
Sunrise (also golden hour)
Pro: Provides glowy, warm light on your subject.
Con: The whole waking up early bit.
Pro: Provides bright light which keeps colors saturated.
Con: HARSH shadows are inevitable.
Evening (also twilight hour)
Pro: Provides softer, cooler light on your subject.
Con: The light fades fast.
Natural light based on the weather:
Pro: Bright and available for a long period of time.
Con: HARSH shadows are inevitable (unless shot under shade, or early morning/late evening)
Pro: Amazing diffused light.
Con: Possible chance of rain.
Pro: Extra possibility for reflections.
Con: Everything & everyone could get wet/damaged.
Pro: Extra soft light further spread by the mist, moodier images are perfect for this.
Con: Less contrast because of how diffused the light is.
Pro: The snow acts as a natural reflector & can help bounce some sunlight back up on the subject.
Con: It’s cold. & Snowy. & Icy.
So as you can see, there are many different ways natural light can be used in your images. If you take the drawbacks of certain types into account, you can decide which would be the best to use for various situations. Try your hand at all of these different types in your work!
May the natural light be with you.
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