Light is the soul of photography. We’ve learned how to use spot metering to turn awful light into awesome shots. Now let’s learn more about all shining natural lights and how to make full use of them to shoot diverse wonderful pictures whenever there’s light!
The way natural light renders a subject is influenced by time of day, weather and camera direction. Let’s take a whole-day photography tour covering each unique time.
Midday Shows the Truest Color
Midday direct and downward sunlight has an unfavorable name in photography as the light is the hardest. The shadow is right beneath the subject, so the picture will lack dimensional appeal.
However, why should we miss other good opportunities just because we can’t use the shadow to emphasize the subject? A photographer should not be so conservative!
Midday light is a quality light source, it’s transparent and pure so the color of the subject is true. Since the subject is exposed in the sun, you can shoot a very clear image, and the shape and the color of the subject will be well-presented.
With the right metering skill, you will be able to get an accurate exposure, and then the hard light will be to your advantage. Clearer water with less direct reflection, bluer sky, and colorful subjects are what you get only at midday.
Golden Hour – The Beautiful Moment
The Golden hour, the hour (figuratively) after sunrise and the hour before sunset, has its reputation of providing us with the most desirable light, long shadows and a soft, warm glow.
The best shots are always momentary and unpredictable. This is also a time when mistakes are very easy to make, so use spot metering to get the exposure as accurate as possible.
Sunrise and sunset share common traits but they are really very different. Sunrise time is calm and tranquil, free of crowds; there is a low-laying mist and dew on any foliage in your shot.
Don’t miss the precious and unique opportunities sunrise offers just because you don’t want to wake up early!
Blue Is Not Always Sad
There’s no direct sunlight and ambient light and the only light source is the entire bright sky. Take your tripod with you and capture this short and atmospheric blue moment. Again, use spot metering for the most accurate exposure.
Evening and Morning – All-Round
Evening and morning lights are not as pure as midday light, not as dreamy as the light in the golden hour and not as soft and diffuse as the blue hour light. However, evening and morning lights are less harsh and subjects are lit from lower angles than at midday. The light is more predictable than golden and blue hour lights. Therefore, evening and morning lights provide excellent all-round lighting. There are none of the others’ drawbacks, but also none of the others’ unique and exaggerated lighting effects.
Although your pictures taken at these “ordinary” time may not be as extraordinary as those taken in the golden hour, blue hour or at midday, you can generally take perfect ones because it is harder to go wrong. If you pay attention to composition and concept you still can get memorable pictures.
From dawn to dusk, sunrise to sunset, morning to evening, nothing should stop you from shooting unique, varied and awe-inspiring pictures.
Critical steps to take on the climb from beginner to pro: