Daylight Savings Time + Natural Light Photographer = No shooting after 4 pm
It’s painful but it’s true! Being a natural light photographer, I am always on the hunt for the perfect lighting. I love natural lighting. I love the look it gives my photos (both people and food) and it’s fun to play with. What I don’t love? My flash. 9 times out 10 I will put the camera away before pulling out my flash. But there are times when I do need to use it. But that’s a post for another time.
When you are working with a natural light source, you have to train your eyes to find the light, to see how it will affect your photo. Over the years, I have learned some tips and tricks that would help me in any lighting situation.
6 Ways to Find the Light
Find the Light, then think about your subject. Before I start shooting, I like to take my subject and have them move around in the spot that I selected for their session. By having them face different directions, I can see how the light highlights their features, if I am seeing any catchlights in the eyes, and if there are any unflattering shadows. By taking the time out to do this before I start photographing them, I save myself some trouble in the end. It also helps me figure out the kind of look I am going for in the end result.
Pull out the reflector. If you aren’t getting the ideal light on your subject, you may have to drag the reflector out. This will help you bounce the light and highlight your subject. You will also eliminate shadows and get the light into their eyes. If you don’t have a reflector handy, plain old white foam board will do the trick! I have been using the below set up for my food photography lately. It’s cheap. It’s easy. Anyone can do it!
Look for shade. A common misconception is that the best light will be out in the open with the sun shining down. All this leads to is squinting, shadows, and blown out areas in your photo. When you move to a shaded area, your light becomes filtered which is more flattering to your subject and eliminates the concerns that arise with direct sunlight.
Go to the window. As you can see in my below food setup, I am literally taking my pictures on my bay window. I’ve also used my kitchen floor next to the sliding glass window. If you are stuck inside, remember to go to the window for lighting! When using window lighting, make sure you position your subject to the brightest spot on the window to take advantage of all the light. But don’t have the light coming in straight on! You want to have the light come in on an angle.
Shoot at sunset. If you are taking family photos, try taking them at sunset. The sun is a flattering angle (not straight above) and you get some goregous colors behind you. If it’s during the fall months and your leaves turn, the leaves will look like they are on fire! No need to enhance these with Photoshop! One tip: You will have to slightly underexpose if you want to catch the amazing sunset behind you. Which leads me to my next tip!
Shoot RAW. Ever since I made the switch to shooting in RAW, I have seen a huge difference in my photos. RAW is a file format that captures all image data recorded by the sensor when you take a photo. One of the best things about shooting in RAW is that you can recover blown highlights or an underexposed photo. Point and shoot users don’t feel left out! Most point and shoot cameras these days have the capability to shoot in RAW. Consult your manual if you are not sure how to change this setting.