Hello readers! I am so exciting to have Amy here from Learn Blog Photography to give us some tips on using natural light to take better photos for your blogs! These tips can also be used to take better Instagram photos. Enjoy!
Do you feel your photos are lacking something and wish you had fancy camera and lighting equipment to make the photos great? Well, what if I told you, you don’t need any fancy equipment to get great website photos? Would you believe me? Well, you should because the best way to up-level your photos without fancy equipment is to use great lighting. Seriously, it’s just that simple!
So, what do you need for great lighting? Obviously, you can buy lighting equipment if you want and get great lighting, but that costs money and requires space to store it. So, instead of wasting time and money trying to buy the equipment you think you need, I want to tell you how you can get great lighting for FREE and you can save the storage space for something else! However, if you really want more information on using lighting equipment you can check out this post.
If you were considering buying equipment, there’s a lot more that you’d need to know about lighting, but since we’re only going to touch on natural light today, it should be a pretty simple concept to grasp. So, what DO you need? For natural light, all you need is a large window or sliding glass door, your camera of choice and some props. There are few key components to great natural light photos that you’ll need to understand which are: light has falloff, use soft light and use directional light.
Key Components to Natural Light
Let’s start with the hardest one first. Light has falloff. Without getting all super technical and blabber on about a bunch of mumbo-jumbo that you don’t care about, the easiest way to explain fall off is that the light is brightest/intense near the source and it decreases as it gets farther away from the source. Think about it this way….you have natural light coming in a window. The room is the brightest near the window, but it’s not nearly as bright at the other end of the room. Therefore, you’ll want to set up your photo shoot nearest your natural light source without being in the direct light in order to get the best possible results. In the photo below you can see how the right side of the image is brighter than the left. This is due to the falloff of light.
Next, you’ll want to use soft light. As I already mentioned, when setting up your scene, you don’t want to have your subject in the direct sunlight because this will create hard light. Hard light will create shadows that transition very quickly and make your photo look like a snapshot. So, what is soft light? Soft light is diffused light that gradually transitions between highlights and shadows when it hits your subject Here’s a photo showing the difference between hard light and soft light.
Now that you know you want to use soft light, you may want to know how to find it. The good news is that there’s a giant ball of fire producing tons of natural light every day. The light produced by the sun changes throughout the day and will vary based on the time of year. Early morning and late afternoon/evening hours will produce soft light. However, light is also naturally modified by clouds to create soft light as well. This means on overcast days you will have tons of soft light regardless of the time of day! The good news is that light can be modified from hard light to soft light through sheer curtains as well! That means, make sure you have some white sheers hanging on the curtain rod so you’re ready for your next photo shoot!!
Ok, but what if you’re outside and it’s the middle of the day for your photo shoot? You’re going to want to hide from the sun. The easiest way to do this is to get under some trees, under a pavilion overhang, or anything else that can block the direct sunlight. However, you’ll want to set up near the edge of the light, so it’s bright enough to light the scene, yet keeps the hard light off the photo’s subject.
Lastly, you’ll want directional light. Take a quick look at any professional photo you have. Do you see there are areas that are brighter and areas with some light shadows? If your subject is set up directly facing the light source, all of the light would fall flat on the subject. There wouldn’t be any shadows and it would make the subject look one dimensional and boring. In order to make it look 3-dimensional and to add some interest, you’ll want to light to fall across the subject. This is easily accomplished by turning your subject slightly.
With this photo, the light is actually coming from a flash, not natural light. I’m using it for 2 reasons. First, this photo demonstrate how the image appears very flat when the light comes directly towards the subject. Second, it helps to demonstrate why you should never use the flash on your camera. It does not produce directional light and the light is very hard, not soft.
In this image, the light is coming from the side and helps create depth and interest, accentuating the 3-dimensional aspect of the cake.
Well, there ya have it! You have the knowledge needed to improve your photos using natural light. If you’d like additional tips on improving your photos without expensive equipment, sign up for the 5 Day Photo Challenge to instantly improve your photos and learn more about picking your subject/props, composition and more!
Amy Jackson is the founder of www.learnblogphotography.com where she empower bloggers to ditch stock photos and learn to take their own. She also offers “Done For Your Biz” custom stock photo services for those who don’t want to learn, they just want it done.
Amy is a single mom to her 13-yr old son, who happens to share her passion for both skiing and photography. Amy is proud to be able to leverage her lifelong creative outlet and teach others how to benefit from photography.”