11 Aug How to Snap Great Photos without Artificial Lighting
Many have the impression that professional photographers only manage to get a wonderful shot because they use artificial lighting. This is not true. There is a way to get beautifully lit photos without the use of such lights, simply by using natural light, also known as sunlight.
Great Photos with Natural light aka Sunlight
Photographers use natural light for few simple reasons.
– The Sun is free! (Less cost!)
– Lesser equipment is required
– What you see is what you get
– As Peter Hurley, one of the authorities in photography, once said, ‘There are no better lights than the sun and the sun is free for you to use.’
So how are we going to use the sunlight to help expose our photographs?
Knowing the Sun
The golden hour, also known as the magic hour, refers to the short period after sunrise or before sunset. During this brief period, the lights are usually softer, redder and less harsh, acting like a huge softbox. The light is in an ideal form to use, especially when you are shooting a portrait for a person. The mid-day sunlight is usually high up in the sky. Direct and harsh, the light creates a hard shadow across the subject. Not only that, you’ll realise that it is not a good time to take images of people as well, since they will be squinting to protect their eyes from the brightness of the day. Hence, softer lights give off less dramatic and even lighting, perfect for a person’s portrait shot. Harsher lights, on the other hand, is associated with the aforementioned defects.
Most photographers would prefer to shoot outdoors during the golden hour, as shadows caused by the direct sunlight of the midday sun is unfavourable. However, that doesn’t mean we can or should only shoot our photos during the golden hours. There are several methods you can use to overcome the issue if you have to shoot during the mid day, under the bright harsh light. One of the methods is to look for shelters or trees if you are in a natural environment. A shelter reduces the amount of direct sunlight falling onto the object or person you are shooting, thereby reducing the undesirable elements of midday photography. Another method is to shoot indoors, using a window as a light source. Many photographers tell you to look for a northern or southern facing window, as to prevent unwanted shadows caused by a direct shine from the sun into the room. Some photographers, however, are not really bothered by the harshness of the midday sun, and prefer to work with what the sun has to offer.
Harsh and dramatic or soft and even light, it is up to you ultimately to determine how you want your photos to turn out. Equipped with the knowledge of the kind of photos various lights produces, you can take various pictures of your desire.
Working with the Sun
When working with lights in general, it is important to understand the direction where the light is coming. Knowing where the light source is coming from will influence the way you place your subject. If you’re shooting indoors with a window, it’s easy to determine where the source is. However, it might be confusing when you are shooting outdoors. I have a method, however, to circumvent the issue and identify the direction of the lights. First, get the person you’re taking a portrait for to stand in the desired location. Next, walk around him or her, and observe shadows on him or her, as well as his/her shadows on the ground. This would help you identify the various directions that the light is coming from.
The intensity of the light also is also critical for the lighting your photos. When working with lights that are too harsh, we can use a diffuser or a piece of white cloth to cover the light source to reduce the harshness of the light. If you are taking photos indoors with a window, you can also move your subject closer or away from the window to adjust the intensity. Reflectors or a piece of white board are also used to bounce light to your subject if you need to light up the shadow of subject even. This diffusers and reflectors are tools to aid you in crafting the lights you want.
To conclude, learning to see lights is a continuous process. You will always manage to find a new way or two to better adjust the lighting to your taste. Continue to practice and also observe how others use work with natural lights.