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Working With Light: How To Take The Best Advantage of Natural Light

Here are tips for transforming natural light into a tool of success in your photography and how to take the best advantage of any and all lighting conditions.

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Working With Light

How To Take The Best Advantage of Light

Light is one of the most important aspects to photography, both outside and in. Not only can it help transform a scene from good to great, but it evokes mystery, simplicity, and beauty by the diverse range of light that succumbs. Here are some general tips for transforming natural light into a tool of success within your photography and how to take the best advantage of any and all lighting conditions.

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Golden Hour

Many photographers coin golden hour as the prime time to take a photo. The term refers to the hour before and after each sunrise and sunset. Their yummy and delicious golden light serves as the perfect backdrop for skin tones, scaled landscapes, and other magical scenes captured. When shooting during the golden hour, notice how warm your images will become, as light carries with a temperature. It’s an unbeatable representation of perfect lighting in photography, always try to shoot during this timeframe if you are able. When post-processing, tinkering with the temperature of an image can drastically transform the feeling that an image evokes in the viewer.

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Blue Hour

Blue hour is a term that refers to the hour before sunrise and the hour after sunset. It casts a bluish tint to the foreground and background with a gorgeous haze of cooling fog and moody vibes.

Add a natural glow to your image when the sun is setting or rising over the horizon line; place objects, like trees or humans, in front of the sun and force the light to weave from the background into the foreground. While this will create additional depth of field in your image, it will also add a pop of brightness that only the golden hour can provide.

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Window Light

Whatever indoor situation you’re shooting in, you’ll want to have your ISO set to the lowest number possible. Remember the rule: the higher the number, the higher the grain; the lower the number, the lower the grain. For optimal results, get close to something that allows outside light in -- the more natural, the better. This will enable you to keep your ISO at the lowest number possible to avoid any unwarranted noise. Plus, window light looks gorgeous on camera.

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Midday Light

Midday can be tricky. Scout the location when you first arrive and take note of the light’s direction. Photographing landscapes in soft, gloomy weather will provide an even playing field to ensure a good light source from every orientation. When shooting portraits, be sure to have the light shine on the subject to illuminate their face. During the sunny hours, it’ll help tremendously to pull your question inside the shadows (a bushel of trees, a city skyscraper, etc.) as it will act as an excellent diffuser from the midday’s harsher conditions.

However, if the light during midday is overcast, then you’re in luck. Overcast is a fantastic way to mask the imperfections of your scene with the light provided by cloudy skies. Always embrace what might seem like a rotten weather pattern, as it can turn something ordinary into something extraordinary.

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Shade

If you are unable to shoot during the prime time of golden hour and are stuck to the confined harshness of mid-day light, there’s still a glimmer of hope. Try photographing your subject under the shady parts of your location. The shade will provide a smooth surface of light to compliment the skin tones of your person. If no shade is available, then work with what you’ve got and do directly into the sunlight, you’d be surprised with what the phone is capable of.

It is not often that an entire image (foreground/background) is exposed correctly by the light. Griffin Lamb created a stunning article about utilizing proper light to generate scale in his pictures. To add depth to an image, he will often focus on the background of a model where the view is particularly fascinating, leaving the foreground of the image darker than the rest of the picture. In post-processing, he’ll then selectively increase the shadows of the front, creating a vision in which the whole image is in clarity despite the focus still being on the light in the background.

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Happy Scouting!

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