Learn the do’s and don’ts of relying on natural light to take better photos
Whether taking happy snaps at a family party or capturing breath taking landscapes, the most important ingredient to taking a photo is light. Have you ever wondered why a photo you’ve taken simply doesn’t look how you expected it to turn out? Much like how a chef cannot prepare a soup without water, a photographer cannot take a photo without light. Keep these few easy tips with you to take not only better pictures, but memories as well!
Much like how a chef can use different ingredients to create different flavours, photographers must understand how the natural light in a scene changes the ‘flavour’ of the photograph taken. Have you ever had a dish with too much salt? That’s like taking a photo with too much light! How about a dish without enough salt? That’s like a photo without enough light!
There are very few aspects about light to keep in mind, but these few aspects are very important!
The first thing to keep in mind with natural lighting is how bright that light source is. One might say the summer sun emits a very intense light! However, a street lamp at night emits a light of very low intensity. Intensity can be a gift or a curse, depending on the photo you want to take. Shadows will be much harsher and dramatic in high intensity light.
Shooting in High Intensity Light
A summer day at the beach or at the park are common scenes with high intensity light. A great to tip to keep in mind when taking photos in these scenes is to make sure your subject is facing the source of light. If the sun is bright, it is best for the photographer to take a photo with their back to the sun.
GOOD IDEA: Have the subject face the source of light
If the subject is facing the sun, it can be almost a guarantee that his or her face will be evenly lit, and have more presence in the scene.
BAD IDEA: Have the subject with their back to the source of light.
If the subject is facing the same direction as the light source, and the photographer is shooting towards the light source (ie. the camera is pointed directly at the sun), we run into some problems. First, the subject’s face becomes lost in shadows, and is overwhelmed by the brighter surroundings. This is not what we want!
BAD IDEA: Have the subject stand in the shade
It’s also important to ensure that the subject is not in the shade! This may result in the background being brighter than the subject, and the subject will not be able to stand out in the scene. This is not what we want! In this example, the subject’s face is darkened by the shadows of the trees. It is his jeans and background water reflecting the sunlight that stand out most in the scene. Typically, it is best if the subject’s face draws the most attention in a scene. Hats and caps can also cast obscuring shadows, so… decapitate!
Shooting in Low Intensity Light
Low intensity lights can come in the form of light fixtures at a restaurant, lit candles, and even moonlight. The best thing to do in these situations is to ensure that the light source is between the photographer and the subject, and that the light source is illuminating the subject. In many situations, better photos can be taken with the automatic flash on the camera turned OFF!
GOOD IDEA: Have a source of light close to the subject, between the camera and subject
Taking photos close to the light source. Make sure that the subject is in the light source range. This helps the subject stands out in the scene. It is also a good idea to have lights in the background as well. This will provide balance in the image. In the example above, the model is holding a lighter to light a cigarette, which provides just enough light to illuminate his face. The floodlights in the background illuminate the environment, and the stars create an interesting sky.
GOOD IDEA: Have a light source behind the subject
Try to include light sources in the background to capture interesting scenes! Continue reading