Backlighting can create some very interesting images, where you see a well-defined subject from a lit background. This technique works well both indoors and outdoors.
This is why the best time to shoot beautiful outdoor portraits is the golden hour. You get the beautiful hues of sunlight with a nice mood to the image. Street and other urban photographs look best when done during this time because of the dramatic shadows, light and patterns they create in the images. Window lighting is another beautiful natural light that you can make use of indoors to illuminate your subject. Since this light shines from an angle (from one side) depending on the time of the day, this light can be creatively used to light the subject. Mostly window light through frosted glass or curtains can be soft, perfect for some good portraits or still life photography. Image by Kelly Sikkema
The Type of Light Source
The light source can either be
Natural light is the sunlight, the moonlight (this is also reflected sunlight), light from stars, etc. whereas artificial lights can be bulbs, candles, speed lights and any light that is man-made. These light sources can be again classified as direct light, indirect, and diffused light sources. Still with me? Direct light sources can create harsh shadows where an image can have hight contrast with very dark and very bright areas – Indirect light is often bounced light from walls/celings/reflectors, Diffused light is light coming from a rather large source that it is scattered and produces very soft light. Examples of diffused light can be sunlight on an overcast day (sunlight passes through cloud layers, gets diffused), or any artificial light source that passes through a semi-transparent material. Image by Josh Sorenson
The Color or Temperature of Light
sun which is a natural source of light has different colors at different times of the day. You will know of the blue hour, the golden hour, the midday sunlight, cloudy day, and if you look at the colors these lights cast on the subjects, it will be very different each time of the day. The same applies to indoor and other artificial lights. For example, a candle light, a tungsten bulb, a fluorescent bulb, etc. all these have a different color thereby creating a different mood to the images. This is called the color temperature and it is measured in Kelvin. How do you correct these colors? You need to choose the correct white balance preset in your camera, for example, tungsten, sunny, cloudy, candlelight, etc or, if you are unsure, use auto white balance. Some high-end cameras have the option to manually set your white balance values to compensate for the unpleasant colors. Remember, in order to change the color of the light indoors, photographers often apply the use of colored gels on top of their light sources to alter the color of light. My advice? Do not go for these unless it is a necessity. Image by Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett
9 QUICK TIPS Harsh light, how do you deal with this? Use a diffuser in between the light source and the subject. This softens the light, makes the source larger, if that makes sense. Do not always go for expensive kits, just use a piece of white linen or semi-transparent white paper and your job is done! Harsh shadows, what is the remedy? Just fill the dark areas (shadows) with light and in order to accomplish this, you will need to use reflectors that can bounce light back onto the subject. This can be mastered with practice. Adjust the angle of the reflector such that it fills the darker regions with enough light. You can create your own reflectors using white paper or silver / gold foil depending on your need. Just like composition rules, keep the golden rule in mind. The best time to shoot landscapes is the golden hour when the sun is low in the sky creating drama in landscapes. Have you seen those beautiful images of sand dunes? The shapes and textures in these images are best revealed when the sun is low in the sky. Try different perspectives, with the sun to your back (be careful about shadows), the sun to your side or the sun in front of you. And, not to forget, as the sun gets lower, it is the best time to create some magical silhouettes by shooting into the light. How about those interior architectural shots in historic buildings? You cannot ignore but admire their dark interior beauty where you have to deal with very less light? These can be challenging especially with the camera struggling to focus, smaller aperture values, etc. Make use of the available lights, keeping in mind the amazing results you could achieve, as these photos can be truly stunning and dramatic. Window lights can help with amazing compositions and textures and shapes in images.Bump up the ISO a bit – the best suggestion would be to use a camera that performs well in low light. You can even use a tripod and slow shutter speed and record the movement of people to create a different feel to the image. Have you shot images in the twilight hour? Well, this is the time before sunrise or the time after sunset when there is some color still left in the sky. Make use of this soft blue light and create some long exposure photographs. This is usually the best time to shoot cityscapes, but not limited to. Try doing a beach shot or a landscape, where you can record the movement of water, clouds, etc with a different feel in the image. Do not stop yourself from photographing at night. This is the time when most cities come to life and are the perfect time to shoot some stunning urban street photos, nightscapes, the moon and various others. Keep a check on your white balance and iso and wherever possible, use a tripod. Natural light has a lot to teach you. If you understand how it works and if you are able to take control and make the best use of it to create good images, then you can apply the same understanding to use flash and other artificial lights to create beautiful images. Soften the light from a Speedlight using various accessories like softboxes, umbrella, diffusers, etc. to avoid harsh light. Do you stay indoors during stormy weather, just because the light is bad? Don’t do that! Have you seen those selective lights from partly cloudy skies or those streaks of sunlight through a stormy sky illuminating a landscape? These are some pretty amazing phenomena and images to photograph. Look for the rainbow after the storm and above all, be safe and protect your gear! Are you at a location (whether night or day, a cityscape or a landscape) where there is between the bright and dark areas of the frame? Do not hesitate to bracket exposures so that you can save your image from having uninteresting shadows or highlights. Always too much contrast use a tripod and cable release in these situations.
Mastering or understanding light can take you to the next level when it comes to photography. Be it natural or artificial light, there is various lighting equipment to suit everyone’s needs.
You can create some yourself at home, like a DIY project. If you are someone who doesn't like artificial light, you'll have various times of the day to make use of the natural light available to shoot stunning images, even at night. Further Resources