Improving your photography with natural light 

 

What is Natural Light?
Natural light is the light provided by the sun.

It changes depending on the time of day and can

enhance your photography if you know how to use it.  
 

How do you locate it?
When outdoors, natural light can be found by looking at shadows. It is best to look for shadows on the ground or beneath the subject's nose. This shows the direction of light based on the angle of the shadow, but also the strength of light based on the darkness of the shadow. 

When indoors, the best natural light is beside a window or door where the light can easily shine through. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

General rules
For most of your photos look for soft light, sometimes referred to as diffused light. This is light that is interfered with before it hits your subject. The light can be diffused by a curtain, tree coverage, and many other things. Hard light is strong light with nothing to diffuse it. The light source is hitting the subject directly.

 

Outdoors, it is best to place your subject in even shade, make sure there are no harsh or patterned shadows on what you want to highlight, i.e. the subjects face or the product label. 

 

Indoors, you want to place your subject/product beside the window and avoid having the light shine straight onwards. Soft side lighting to show shape and form is ideal. 

 

 

Light Placement
Portrait Photography 
Shaded areas or lighting from behind
Avoids your subject squinting and provides a "halo" effect

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food Photography 
Lighting from the side or from behind 
Side lighting shows shape and form 
Backlighting separates the food from the background

 

 

 

 

 

 

Product Photography 
Lighting from the side or from behind 
Provides enough light on the object without making

it look flat.
 

 

 

 

Professional equipment?
By understanding where to place your subject in relation to the light, you can create professional-quality photos without the price of professional equipment. Phone cameras are getting increasingly better, along with editing apps. The Lightroom app is free and provides professional-level editing software. 


Cost-efficient assistance
A black marble: If you hold the marble inside your fist with a large portion displaying on the outside, you can see the direction of the light and judge the strength of it. 

 

A reflector: Amazon has reflectors for as little as $10. If you are looking to spend no money, pick up a piece of printer paper or white poster board. Move it around in front of the subject until you see the light reflected back onto them. 

 

Posterboard with a hole for your camera: In product photography, you often see the phone or camera in the reflection of the product. By using a blank piece of poster board or paper with a small hole for the camera, the reflection will be even and non-distracting. 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things to Avoid
Head-on lighting: By placing the subject directly across from the light source, the subject is flattened. Photography is a one-dimensional medium, but this doesn't mean your subject shouldn't show shape and form.  

 

Distractions: Your eye will typically be drawn to the brightest portion of the photo. So, avoid backgrounds or other elements brighter than what you want to highlight. Also, avoid distracting shadows cast across important parts of the photo.