Natural light, for the purpose of this discussion will be defined as the light produced by the sun or the moon. We will start this section with sunlight as most outdoor photography is done during daylight hours. We will discuss moonlight a little later.
Daylight is constantly changing. As the earth rotates it appears as if the sun is moving across the sky. This makes for a constant change in direction, intensity, quality and quantity of light. Because of this progression your scene will also be constantly changing. A subject that you shoot early in the morning may look very different at high noon or later on in the evening. It’s always a good idea to return to the scene at different times of the day whenever you can. The difference in shadows and textures of a scene can be dramatic.
When shooting in sunlight you must take care with the position of the sun in your scene. For example if your lens is pointing directly at the sun you may have a problem with lens flare. To help control this use a lens hood. If you don’t have a hood with you try using a hat or card to block the sun’s rays from shining on your lens. You must also be very careful not to look directly at the sun as this can cause damage to your eyes. Remember safety first.
The different times of the day can be broken down into separate topics for discussion. First of all let’s talk about the two times that start and finish a day. Those times are just before sunrise and just after sunset. Commonly referred to as Dawn and Dusk. At these times of the day the sun isn’t showing above the horizon but it’s light is definitely present as a glow in the sky. You may not like getting up before the sun but give it a try, you just might find that treasure of a shot.
The next time of day for our natural light discussion is sometimes referred to as the golden hours. Those being Sunrise and Sunset. These are two of the most popular times for outdoor photography, as the low angle of the sun results in some great effects.
One thing to keep in mind is your white balance. You will need to change it to accommodate the different types of lighting you will be dealing with when shooting with natural light. You can use the different white balance settings on your camera or you may want to try the manual setting if your camera provides this option. If you would like a little refresher have a look at this page for a discussion on White Balance.
I hope that the pages in our natural light section will help you on your fun and photographic journey. Some of the upcoming pages will deal with midday sun, cloud cover and even photographing in the moonlight. All you have to do is try these tips, take a ton of photos and have a great time with your photography.