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Chasing the Light – How to Capture the Perfect Lighting

Church wedding at Clearwell, Gloucestershire

52 days ago

natural light photography

As a photographer, I spend my working life ‘chasing the light.’ It is absolutely integral to the images I produce that I understand how light effects photography, how to manipulate it and how to use it to my advantage. You don’t have to have to be a professional though to get the most out of the light in your pictures. They say knowledge is power so in this post I will share with you 5 invaluable facts that you need to know to capture the perfect illuminated pictures. 

A wide light creates a soft image

 To achieve soft lighting you need a wide light source. The narrower the light, the harsher it appears. When a light source is broad it reduces shadows, contrast and softens texture. 

 Following this same logic, if you are trying to achieve soft lighting, you want to make sure your light source is close to your subject as the closer it is the broader its reach will be within the image.

This is why, although the sun is the broadest light available to a photographer, its distance from the earth means that it acts like a narrow light source and will shadows on the subject. This isn’t necessarily a good or a bad thing, it completely depends on the subject you are photographing and your intentions of the shot. What is important is simply that you understand this and the effect of your light source on the image. 

There is  a golden hour of natural light

In the hour after the sun has risen and the hour before it sets, the sun provides the perfect lighting conditions for outside photography and has been aptly coined the ‘golden hour’ for its magical properties. It doesn’t matter if you are capturing portraits or landscapes; everything looks finer in this beautiful light. 

It is so effective because the sun is low in the sky and therefore it appears broader and closer. This provides a soft, defused light which eliminates unforgiving shadows. The warm, textured and deep glow that the golden hour gifts to photographers is an absolute pleasure to work with and one that everyone can use to their advantage (if you can get up early enough)! 

Scattered light is softer light 

Think about the difference in a photo taken in the direct midday sun and one taken when there are patches of cloud or an air of mist? These natural occurrences take away the harsh shadows caused by the sun by scattering and diffusing the light in different direction. This makes the light source broader and softens the image.   

If you are doing an indoor shoot you can recreate this effect manually by using white fabric. Simply place the material in front of the artificial light for an artificial cloud effect. 

You can bounce light 

 

By bouncing light you can change how it enters the camera lens. When you shine a narrow, focused light onto a white flat surface (a wall for example), it will deflect and simultaneously scatter the light to defuse it. 

 

If you use a shiny reflector such as a mirror or surface water, the light will not defuse and will bounce back but remain narrow.

 

Position your light to change the texture 

 

Where you place your light will depend on the depth of texture visible in the image. When you centralise the light, the texture is de-emphasised. This is often used to diminish wrinkles or blemishes. If you want to highlight the texture then place the light to the side or above. This is especially useful when photographers are capturing natural images of foliage or rocks. 

 

Capture the Moment 

 

The most important thing to do when exploring how light affects your photography is to practice. You need to see for yourself how your lighting choices determine the quality of the image and use trial and error to explore and improve your skills. 

 

Practicing creating beautiful images is a fabulous hobby and one I highly recommend but some occasions require the eye of a professional. Personally, I have spent years studying light and its effects on the camera lens and use this knowledge in every shoot I do. If you want to ensure that your pictures are perfectly illuminated then contact me today to book an appointment.