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Natural Light Photography Tips from Jimmy Chin

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Natural Light Photography Tips from Jimmy Chin

Natural light is light emitted by the sun or the moon. Natural light varies all the time; understanding sunrise and sunset is essential for outdoor photography.

“Light is everything,” says Jimmy Chin, an adventure sports photographer, videographer, and mountaineer.”If you can’t control it, you have to be able to anticipate it and know what you wantUnderstanding natural light, particularly its quality and direction, is an element of this, as are variations throughout the day.

What Exactly Is Natural Lighting in Photography?

Natural light is light emitted by the sun or moon, as opposed to a camera flash or other artificial light. As the sun moves across the sky, natural light varies every minute.That is why knowing exactly where the sun will rise or set on any given day is important.

When arranging a shot, the day is quite useful.

Where Can I Find the Best Natural Light?

When planning a project that includes natural light, knowing where the sun will rise and set on any given day is tremendously useful.These apps, which are available for purchase, will tell you the exact location of the sun (and sometimes the moon) on any day of the year, wherever you are on the planet.

The Photographer’s Ephemeris Sun Surveyor Sun Seeker

Lighting Fundamentals

If you’re working with natural (or available) light, you need to grasp its quality, direction, and colour temperature.


The angle at which the light strikes the issue is referred to as the light’s direction.There are five light directions.

1) Front lighting

The subject is lighted from the front with front light, which produces excellent, even light on the subject’s face.It’s useful for portraiture since it reduces the size of the subject’s face and hides wrinkles.

2) Backlighting

Backlight illuminates the subject from behind, resulting in a silhouette or a dramatically blown-out background.

3) A secondary light

Side lighting illuminates the topic from the left or right, highlighting the texture of the subject.

4) The brightest light

Because it can generate “raccoon eyes,” or deep shadows in the eye sockets, top light is frequently regarded as the least pleasing type of light.

5) Under the light

The subject is lit from below, under light. Because light sources are generally always above our heads, lighting your subject from below feels quite unnatural—an effect commonly associated with horror films.

Intensity or Quality?

The intensity or quality of light refers to whether it is hard or soft.

Hard light is what sunlight looks like, with deep shadows and crisp, distinct edges. Soft light is the appearance of light on a foggy day when shadows are much softer and the edge of the shadow is not discernible. Soft light is ideal for portraiture because it avoids harsh shadows on people’s faces.

1) Pigment

Colour temperature is less obvious because our eyes and brains are quite excellent at adapting to whatever light colour we’re seeing in order for it to appear “normal.” We can now buy multiple colour temperature bulbs to light our houses, making it easier to be conscious of colour temperature.

Even though we conceive of the sun as a constant source of light, its light temperature varies with the time of day (because of the way light passes through the atmosphere).

1.The light is hotter, or yellower, at daybreak.

2.The light is much calmer around midday, a blue white. This is sometimes referred to as genuine white.

3.The 30-minute period before the sun sets is known as the “golden hour” because the light is golden in colour.

4.The blue hour, also known as twilight, is the half-hour after the sun has set when there is still light in the sky. The sky will appear quite blue in photographs.

Natural Light  Applications

Portrait Photography

Natural light can be used to create a softer, radiant effect for portraits.Place your subject’s face close to a natural light source, such as a window, when photographing inside. A front light will smooth out any skin imperfections, while a side light will help give your subject dimension. You should also use a basic backdrop with low contrast, as a cluttered or high-contrast background will draw focus away from the subject of your image. Consider keeping a backup lighting arrangement on hand if natural light becomes unavailable during your session standby (more on that below).

Shooting portraits outside can be more difficult—but not impossible! Look for soft, steady light, which is easier to find in the mornings and nights when the sun is at an angle. Avoid photographing in the middle of the day, when unflattering overhead light casts harsh shadows on your subject’s face.


Windows are necessary in a studio to capture natural light.You can’t shoot natural-light photos without a natural light source! For the best, most pleasing impact, position your subject or object to the side of or facing the window. Backlighting should be avoided unless you’re trying to create a silhouette.

Photographing a product

Natural light is ideal for shooting things because artificial light can cause colour shifts, whereas natural light aids in its preservation (and keeps the white balance in check). When shooting products indoors with natural light, you’ll utilise the same technique you’d use for portraits: It’s a window. Shoot on a simple white background as well, as white uniformly reflects light.

If you’re in a new place, it will take some practice to adjust to the light. If the natural light is too strong, drape a thin white sheet (a diffuser) across the window to soften it. If the sun is obscured by clouds, use a white foam board or screen (a reflector) to bounce and amplify the light.

Photography for weddings

Many wedding photographers favour natural light over artificial lighting and flash because it produces softer, more romantic images.Shooting with natural light also necessitates less equipment, which is beneficial when the photographer must move around a lot to snap photos.

Jimmy’s Natural Lighting Pro Tip

If you’re shooting in a circumstance where the subject is substantially darker than the sky, you’ll want to slightly underexpose your shot to avoid blowing out the sky. You can always enhance your subject in post-production. However, if you overexpose the sky and the camera does not record any data because it is too bright, you will be unable to recover.There will be no information in that section of the image, and the sky will always be white.

How to Create Artificial Natural Light in Photography

If good natural light isn’t available—say, if it rains on the day of your shoot—you can fake it.

Collect the following items or consider buying a complete lighting kit:

  1. Constant light source
  2. A lighting stand
  3. Disperse
  4. Tripod
  5. Gobo

Optional: light modifiers or strobe lighting (if you’re feeling adventurous).

The first requirement is continuous lighting. If you have a professional studio light, that’s amazing! With a studio light, you’ll have more control over the light temperature and other variables. However, if you are not yet ready to invest in studio lighting, a floor lamp would suffice.You’ll also need to dilute the strong artificial light, which you can do with a white sheet or other thin white fabric.

When using studio lighting, it’s a good idea to use a tripod because you’ll need to increase the ISO and aperture. This requires you to keep your camera steady, which is much easier to do with a tripod.

You can shoot your person or item directly with the diffuse light, or you can add a “gobo” for a more natural effect. The term “gobo” refers to an object that sits between your light source and your subject, throwing shadows to alter the image’s quality. For example, a piece of cardboard split into strips can replicate the look of window blinds. Experiment with different angles until you achieve the desired effect.

You cannot use all of these composition principles in a single photograph, but with consistent practice, you will be able to recognise which rule to follow as soon as you turn on your camera. While it is true that compositional principles can be broken for artistic reasons, it is frequently best to learn the rules first, then break them. Have fun creating!


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