Natural light is loved by photographers far and wide… and it’s no wonder! It’s beautiful, easy to use, always available during day time, and free!! And even more importantly… it varies in quality to such an extent it’s a powerful creative tool. And so when we saw shot after shot using natural light to stunning effect in the Grad’s group this week, it had to be the theme of this highlights reel!
Check them out and grab our tips around some of the different types and ways to use natural light to create eye-popping imagery!
Soft light is the most flattering for portraits as it wraps around our subjects features gently, gives beautiful catchlights which makes their eyes sparkle, and avoids the dreaded squints! There’s a few places and times of day we can find soft light, and one of the easiest is on overcast days. The clouds act as a giant diffuser to soften the light which means you could shoot outdoors even in the middle of the day and not have to worry about strong shadow lines on your subject’s faces which can be jarring and distracting.
Open shade is another way to find soft light, and by that I mean any structure that has a covering overhead and and least one side. This creates some shade at the edge of the light and within this shaded area you’ll find nice soft light.
Another version of open shade is what we at Click Love Grow like to call garage light. Most garages or sheds have few to no windows inside, which means the light within is quite dim. So when you place your subject just inside the doorway and shoot in, any clutter inside the building falls away inside the shadows. The result is a beautiful soft light portrait which pops against the dark scene behind.
Another form of open shade which works similarly to garage light is doorway light. Place your subject in the doorway facing outside, and yourself outside the doorway to shoot in.
Related: Doorways for Natural Light Portraits
Early or late in the day when the sun is low on the horizon, position your subjects with the light behind them. This will provide a beautiful illumination on the background foliage or whatever happens to be be hind them, and avoid strong light on their faces.
But here’s a tip… to really light up their faces and create catchlights in their eyes, look for areas with open sky behind you.
When your backlight isn’t filtered, you’ll get strong, long shadows in front of your subject. Don’t avoid! These create movement, leading lines, extra layers of interest and a beautiful summery feel.
So can you only shoot outdoors in natural light when the sun is low on the horizon? Nope! This image below is another type of open shade, it was shot at 3pm when the sun was still quite high in the sky. But it was shot under a canopy of trees which filtered the strong light and turned it into flattering, soft light.
When shooting under trees, just be mindful of dappled light on faces and green colour casts on skin which can come from very bright green leaves. In this scene it’s avoided as the trees are dense and also quite tall which minimises this problem.
Related: Tips For Fabulous Fall Photos
When it comes to outdoor portraits, there’s no more beautiful backdrop than sparkly bokeh! Capture it by shooting when the sun is low in the sky, and sitting behind dense foliage. It needs to have some little gaps for the light to poke through, but not too big or you’ll just end up with big patches of bright, distracting light.
Control the intensity of the bokeh by using a wide aperture and putting a good distance between your subject and the foliage. The tutorial below explains he camera settings for creating beautiful bokeh photos.
This is the time of day just after sunset and just before sunset. The sun is low on the horizon and filtered by the atmosphere, and in certain conditions it creates a gorgeous warm glow. You’ll have a window of around 1-2 hours of an evening, and less in the morning. We don’t always get a golden glow during this time… if it’s overcast it generally doesn’t appear. Really warm days tend to end with a golden glow almost guaranteed and for that reason in some parts of the world it’s more common in summer than any other time. My point being if you head out to take golden hour photos and the glow doesn’t come… it’s not you.
Shoot with the setting or rising sun behind your subject. This shot below levels up the artristry by using intentional blur for a dreamy effect.
Head into your garden during the golden hour… anything can be rendered extraordinary when it’s bathed in a magical glow.
This shot is backlit which illuminates the delicate, semi opaque petals and highlights their texture and that subtle, exquisite pattern. Combine that with a wide aperture to create a painterly look in the background.
Bokeh can be a subject within itself. In this shot below the light hitting dew on the grass blades creates a bling effect. In the second shot the setting sun skims over the top of the field of grass. In both shots a wide aperture is the best way to make the most of it.
Related: How To Take Gorgeous Bokeh Photos
Position your subject side on to natural light, and let the opposite side fall away to the shadows. This defines your subject’s features for a more dramatic natural light portrait. It only works in soft light though… if this were shot in brighter light, such as that found in the middle of the day, the lines between the shadows and light would be more defined and quite jarring and unflattering.
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