Most people think that the more equipment they have, the better. However, I’m quite the opposite. I find that carrying around heavy lights, flashes and reflectors is a pain. The best light source is sunshine, in my opinion.
I would like to share with you some words of advice that will help you take advantage of that big giant reflector up there. With a little luck, you will begin to appreciate the natural light much more whether you hate carrying around big equipment or not.
The sun is distinct
One of the things I appreciate about the sun is that it’s always different. While it may seem like quite the challenge to have a very unpredictable source of light, I really like that every shoot, every photo, every day is special and one of a kind. It would be impossible to recreate the exact lighting I had one day. There are some days when everything works absolutely perfect and I appreciate them completely.
Take notice on how the light looks on the face of your subject
Many beginner photographers take photos with very harsh shadows and lights on the faces. This is because in most cases they don’t really pay attention to the subject but on the background. This can be a huge issue if you try to take photos in very bright sunlight, such as early afternoon or midday.
Sunlight is a great source of light but you do have to put a little effort into it and position what you’re trying to take a picture of just right.
Take a shot with the sun behind your subject. This is my favorite technique because if the sun is behind the subject and facing you it will make it glow. However, there are some things you need to be aware of when attempting to shoot this way.
Use the backlight at any time of the day
You will get different results when shooting when the sun is in various positions. It’s a great way to shoot when the light is very powerful as it will soften the shadows and light on the face of your subject.
Move around when shooting
The differences in the angles can have a great impact on the image. I personally enjoy having the sun behind the subject but relatively to the side. If you shoot when the sun is directly in front of you, it’s possible to get flares inside the lens and this will ruin the subject. Make sure you experiment to see what actually works for you.
Manipulate the light by using bushes, trunks, poles etc.
You can get amazing soft bokeh when the sun is right behind bushes or trees. This will filter the light so it won’t be as harsh and you’ll get soft, warm lighting. Positioning yourself behind a pole or a tree will remove some glare and harshness from your lens. You don’t have to take a shot of the pole or tree, you just have to use it with your lighting.
Be careful what you’re wearing
As a photographer, it’s better to use white or light tops and to avoid wearing very bright colors. While you may think it doesn’t matter what the photographer is wearing, the fact is that the sun can reflect from your clothes, casting colors on the subject that you don’t want.
Use your body and the subject’s body to work with sunlight
You could position yourself in such a way that the sun is behind your subject, so the subject can filter the sunlight and also reduce the glare inside the lens. This technique can also produce a starburst effect or a glow. If you feel that you’re getting way too much glare inside the lens, hold your hand to the side of the lens to cut down the amount of sunlight going into your camera.
Experiment with sunlight directly on the subject
There are advantages to this technique, such as being able to include the sky in your image. When you use backlight, the sky will most likely be blurry because you will need to focus on the exposure of your subject. It’s true that adding sky in post-processing is pretty easy, but when you take a shot with the sunlight right behind you, facing the subject, you can capture both.
Be aware that it’s pretty difficult for the subject not to squint in direct sunlight
If you shoot on a very bright day, you may be forced to position your subjects in such a way so that they look away from the sunlight. Many are sensitive to bright lights, which means that you probably won’t be able to shoot with front lighting except if the sun is almost set.
Use sunlight when shooting portraits
When the sun is almost set or the sunlight is soft you can position your subject so that the light is falling from the side. This will allow you to capture great portraits.
Watch how the light falls
I constantly find myself analyzing how the light falls on the faces of people I talk with. I analyze how the shadows fall during different hours of the day. I constantly study the light and always take shots in my head.