Natural Light Photography example and thoughts


When it comes to natural light photography, it can be one of the most challenging of all the photographic disciplines. The most wonderful moment is when the shot goes correctly. There is something special about the warm tones of the sun when the position is ideal. Different photographers choose different times of the day to shoot in natural light. My preference is the light at sunset. Shooting at sunset poses its own unique set of limitations, namely time. You have what is referred to as magic hour. In reality that hour is really only about 45 minutes.

Typically I love to use the sun as a backlight which gives the effect of a nice hair light. That only works if I use some sort of an artificial light in front of the subject. Since we are shooting with only natural light the model will typically face the sun at an angle sufficient to create flattering shadows.
Your camera settings will vary depending on cloud cover and surroundings. Many times your ISO will be a bit higher than normal for a portrait but that is to be expected. Many times, shooting at very low apertures will help with the low light scenes, but like many other situations, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. In this image for example I opted for a higher f-stop along with a higher ISO. I did this because the wind was blowing and I had to increase the shutter speed to 1/100th of second. The lens is a 85mm 1.4 Carl Zeiss so even at f4, it has a wonderful bokeh.

Shooting in natural light is a lot of fun but it can be tricky. As they say, practice makes perfect. I recommend a lot of practice before taking a Natural Light only gig. The rewards are great but success is not assured.

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