If you have read anything about photography, you have no doubt run across numerous articles that focus solely on natural light. This is because light it so important. It can make or break your photos. Yes, you can edit photos to make them look like they had the perfect light, but if you know how to use natural light to your advantage you will have a much better image to start with SOOC (straight out of camera).

There are a few secrets to using natural light that could drastically change the way your photos look.

All photographers have their own preferences when it comes to their images. I prefer soft, backlit photos that give my subjects a more classic or romantic look. Whatever your style, this article will help you use light to take better photographs.

Lighting is important no matter what your subject is. I often look for detail shots at weddings or other photo shoots. In the photo of flowers below, I positioned myself so the flowers were in full shade with just a hint of sunlight along the edge, which brings me to my first tip;

Natural light

Use Shade

When taking photos outside, you can always look for areas that have full shade. Especially if you are taking pictures in the middle of the day when the sunlight is straight up ahead and casts harsh shadows. I look for trees, buildings that make nice bake drops, or if nothing else, shade your subjects face with a nice hat. Shade provides even light. Your images will have more detail and be truer to life. If you like to edit your photographs you will have a nice even canvas to start with.

Natural light

This photo was taking in the middle of the day in open sun. Although the model was a bit reluctant, you can see how the shadows on her face are distracting from the photo. The photo below was just seconds later and only a couple steps away. The difference is, I placed her in the shade for this photo. You can see, even without manipulation, the photo is much softer and more beautiful.

Natural light

Back Lighting

This is my favorite way to photograph. I love having the nice golden edge along the subject of my image. To achieve this, place your subject so the side you are photographing of the person or object is completely shaded while the sunlight or artificial light is directly behind. This allows for a beautiful even light as well as a stunning rim of light that outlines your subject. If you are photographing people, your client will have bright, open eyes, smooth skin, and no harsh shadows or squinting eyes.

Natural light

Time of Day

This one makes all the difference when shooting outside. You have probably heard of the golden hour. That dreamy hour just before dusk that gives all your photos a beautiful color palet. Whenever possible, use time of day to your advantage. But remember you can get stunning photos at other times also. The early morning gives similar lighting to the evening. Dusk, also known as the blue hour, can be an exciting time to shoot. You may also want to try some silhouette photography when it is almost dark. Get out there at different times and figure out what you like best!

Window Light

Window light is a fantastic way to get natural light when you are indoors. Use the window to reflect on your subjects face or the object you are photographing. Put something intriguing outside your window when photographing young kids to get them to look out the window while you get your perfect pictures. This light can also look beautiful right behind a person. Your camera’s meter will tell you the photo is over exposed, but that’s ok. Play around with your aperture and iso settings to see what you like the most. You will get a bright white back drop framing your model.

Go out and try each of these in your photographs this week. Practice with each type of light to find your preference. Let me know how it goes. Leave a comment below and share one of your favorite photos!