The Essence of Natural Light

Three Natural Light Photography Tips

I still remember the first time I saw the photograph that led me to become a passionate landscape photographer. I am sure that all photographers who are truly in love with natural light as myself, have a special image taken by another photographer that was absolutely important for them to start themselves on this beautiful world of photography.

The photograph I’m talking about is a panoramic image taken by the iconic Colin Prior showing the mountains of Assynt, Scotland, on a wintery evening. In this image you can see how some wonderful natural light accentuates the peaks of Stac Pollaidh, Suilven, Cùl Mòr and Cùl Beag. The illumination seems to be one of these theater lights that bath the actors on a stage. Basically it is a photograph in which light is a tangible character thanks to its presence on the mountains.

Today I want to share with you some photography tips. I hope that they will allow you to understand light better in order to capture it in the most beautiful ways.

Natural Light is always Changing

One of the greatest problems of many photographers that are used to work in controlled environments, (like studios), is that they think that an exposure setting will be static and that it can be maintained during long periods of time. That is not the case when you are only relying on natural light. Here we have to be constantly aware of changes in light.

These changes happen as we move around the sun obviously. But they also happen due to passing clouds that cover the sun. Or as we walk towards a place thanks to the different types of shadow we can be entering to. Being able to change exposure settings instinctively and by feeling requires a lot of practice indeed. However, the good thing about photography is that if you love yourself, you have a lifetime to master it.

Overexpose a little

When we learn photography, we believe that the best way to expose is to achieve balanced exposures every single time. But that might not be the case every time. When exposing you should crank light a little bit more, like ⅔ or 1 stop of light. With this you’ll be able to recover information and you’ll get richer tones in the darkest and more shadowy zones of your images. Obviously, this is achieved later in post-production. Nonetheless this should not be seen as a bad thing, since post-production is an integral part of photography. Eventually this is where we develop all our RAW files.

Stay away from Harsh Light

If you like to capture everything with light that is dramatic, and that helps you see things differently, then try to stay away from harsh light that midday gives us for example. The best lights and shadows can be captured during the early morning hours and the late afternoon hours before nightfall. Doing it in a different way will mean having to work with very hard light, which gives rather unappealing and flat results.

A brief Crash Course on Understanding Light

I’m not going to talk about light in a physical way. That’s not the point when talking about light to photographers that are just starting in this world. We want more photographers, not more people afraid of learning photography. The important thing about light at this level of expertise is that one must understand it as energy. And that it travels and interacts physically with the elements.

Light always travels in a straight line. In a much summarized way we can say the following about the three elements that make up the exposure triangle in photography:

  • Aperture: It is the amount of light that you are allowing (with your lens) to pass through your camera in order to finally hit your camera’s sensor or film.
  • Shutter Speed: This is the amount of time that you are allowing that amount of light to hit your sensor. Hence the amount of time that you are allowing your camera’s sensor to be exposed to that amount of light.
  • ISO: Last but not least, with this value you are controlling the behavior of your camera’s sensor sensitivity.

These aforementioned tips may sound good to you, but still it is important for you to know what natural light is. Natural light is provided by the sun, and the weather has a lot to do with it as well. My favorite light situations are produced at early mornings and evenings, because the light is soft and evenly spread out. Also, overcast days create a sort of gigantic and natural soft-box above an entire scene.

Key Verdict

Natural light surrounds us at every time. It’s being known to aid photography in the most beautiful and aesthetic ways. Personally, as a scenery and landscape photographer, I have concluded that natural light is the best thing for me since artificial light is useless for the photographs that I love to create. Remember that the harmony of light and landscape constantly creates novel and unique moments. And we as photographers have the tools in hand to capture these situational moments of time for life.

“Light thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it.”

― Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man

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