Lighting is everything when it comes to taking a good photograph. Once you understand the different types of lighting, you'll have the knowledge to capture beautiful and creative photos. From direct sunlight to shade, natural light can be used by nature photographers to create stunning images of the natural landscape. In honor of National Nature Photography Day, our expert photographer, Michelle Baisa, is sharing her top ideas for shooting gorgeous nature images utilizing the natural light you have to create an extraordinary visual impact.
The term “natural light” refers to any light generated by the sun. It can be harnessed at any time of day, rain or shine! I believe that all-natural light boils down to 2 different kinds:
- Dynamic light.This type of light can also be referred to as “harsh” or “bright.” It creates much contrast between highlights and shadows. Dynamic light can include “golden hour” when the sun is gorgeously brilliant and warm, low in the sky. It can also include “dappled light,” a pattern of shadows created quite often by the sun shining through the trees, leaves, or other parts of nature.
- Diffused light.This type of light can be found on cloudy days or in open shade, where the light feels more “even.” If you look closely, though, you will see that it can still be directional; it just has much less contrast than dynamic light.
No matter your natural light situation, you can make fantastic nature images! The following are seven ideas for creating magic in the great outdoors. They can even be combined for a more significant visual impact!
1) Shoot through one natural object to get to another.
Instead of focusing on that blossom closest to you, change your angle, so another one is between your lens and your subject, creating depth and hazy color within the frame. If you’re shooting from a distance, find some tall grasses or flowers to shoot behind. This will work in any natural light scenario.
2) Shoot with the sun behind the subject.
During golden hour, you can create fantastic warmth in your nature images or accentuate details as the sun creates a golden glow of rim light around them. Using dynamic light, you can create amazing shadows, contrast, and flare within your frame.
3) Shoot with a wide aperture.
"Don’t necessarily shoot directly into the sun, but rather with the sun just off the edge of the frame."
4) Change your perspective.
Shoot from underneath your subject up into the sky for a bright blue backdrop. Get down low to present some details one might not see just walking by. Move around your subject to see how the light hits it from different directions.
These can add color, bokeh, or reflections to your image. Depending on their size, these can be placed between your lens and subject or even behind your subject. Even though they can work well during golden hour or in dynamic light, they may be just what you need to add some interest to your subject when your light is diffused.
6) Take advantage of water.
Go out and shoot after, or even during, the rain! I’ve been known to grab my clear umbrella and head to the yard in inclement weather. The clear umbrella protects my camera from harm while still allowing light to reach my closer subjects. If it’s not raining, but you still want water droplets, grab your squirt bottle. This is a great way to add interest when your light is diffused or exceptional sparkle when it’s dynamic!
7) Use the sun like a spotlight.
Look for a subject that stands out from the area around it because it’s reaching for sunlight, whereas the rest is in shadow. This is one way to make your viewer’s eye go straight to your intended area of interest.
Heading out into the environment armed with only your camera (and maybe some fun crystals or a squirt bottle), you can shoot incredible images using whatever natural light is available to you. I hope these ideas have inspired you to experiment and expand your creativity!
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Diffuse, reflect, and have fun!
Michelle is a nature and floral photographer from Northwest Indiana whose passion lies in close-up/macro work. She finds beauty in details great and small. When she’s not out shooting in the yard or at a local park, you might find her dabbling in self-portraiture. She is a Click Pro who has been published in Click Magazine and This Detailed Life.Instagram Website Facebook