Working with natural light



When I first started doing photography, I did a lot of photo shoots using just natural light. It was nice to focus on composition and getting familiar with the camera, without having to deal with a lighting kit. I feel that if you try to focus on too many things, it can feel overwhelming. Now that I’ve been doing photography for a while, I’m much more adept and comfortable incorporating studio lights.


Before you plan your photo shoot, there are some factors that you should keep in mind.


Time of Day

The mornings or late afternoons tend to offer the most flattering light. The sunlight is not as intense and it’s not directly overhead, creating distracting shadows on your model’s face. I have done shoots in the middle of the day, and you can make it work. The most important thing is to be aware of the shadows. Shadows can create a cool effect. Just be patient with yourself and get creative. The second photo is from a shoot I did at a junkyard. It was the middle of the day, and I was really struggling with the shadows. Eventually I made it work, but I remember having to try a few ideas before I found an angle where the shadows didn’t cut across her face.

The last thing I’ll suggest is to make sure your model isn’t squinting. Some individuals, such as myself, are more sensitive to light.



Weather can also affect natural lighting. One time I had a shoot, and the sky was overcast all day. I didn’t have to worry so much about shadows because the clouds essentially created a giant soft box. This meant that the light was less powerful but more evenly distributed. However, I noticed that the colors were a little less vivid, so I had to make some adjustments after the photoshoot.


Using additional lighting

Until recently I didn’t have a transportable strobe kit, so I mainly used natural lighting when I did location shoots. Occasionally, I have my Ice Light. The Ice Light is a portable LED light that is compact, easy to use, and looks like a miniature light saber (which I think is really cool). It doesn’t replace a strobe light because it’s not as strong. The purpose of the Ice Light is to add some light to a specific area. There are many other options out there besides the Ice Light, but I have found that having that kind of additional lighting is very helpful. The only thing I would add about lighting is that you need to get a stand or have an assistant hold the light.


If you think about it, most of us are more used to natural light photography because we’re always taking pictures with our smart phones. As with most things in life, the more you practice natural light photography the more comfortable and confident you become.


If you find yourself getting anxious about a photoshoot, take a deep breath and look at the image you shot. If there’s something you don’t like, identify what it is and make small changes. The other advice I have is to look at samples of outdoor shoots, especially ones with a lot of shadows. Study how other photographers have incorporated the shadows into their shots.

About the Author:

Leave a Comment!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *