Learn How to Use Natural Light Effectively
Are your photos consistently opaque, lacking brightness, and falling short of your expectations? Don't worry, we've all been there. The key is to understand how light influences the photo-taking process.
Optimize your use of natural light by understanding its dynamic nature. Discover how to avoid common mistakes when photographing your products or creations and easily take professional-looking shots.
This guide on understanding natural light helps you feel more comfortable in your creative process, boosting product sales.
Taking a photo involves allowing light to pass through the lens and capturing the image on a file or film. Despite this process, it is important to understand the various factors that can affect the outcome of the photos. Once you learn how to manage these factors, it becomes easier to consistently achieve desired results.
1. Quality and Color of Light
In general, the time of day determines the type of light you will have in a shot. This is always mitigated a little bit by the direction your windows face and whether it is sunny or cloudy, winter or summer. Indirect morning light usually yields cooler, more blueish tones, while afternoon or evening light will be a bit warmer.
Though you can adjust color temperature in Photoshop, Lightroom or any other app you use, you will create better images if you take advantage of the natural color temperature of the day and enhance it rather than change or adjust it afterwards.
2. Quantity of Light & Contrast
Larger light sources yield less contrasting light. On overcast days, the source of light is the entire sky as sunlight is diffused and reflected by the clouds. As a result, shadows appear lighter with soft edges (if they even exist) - this is known as low contrast lighting.
To decrease contrast with indirect daylight, increase the size of the light source compared to the subject. In this scenario, positioning closer to the window with indirect daylight (no direct sunlight) would be ideal.
To enhance contrast with indirect daylight, set the item farther from the window.
Light from smaller sources has greater contrast. Take the sun, for instance, which is relatively small compared to the Earth.
Sunlight creates dark shadows with sharp edges, resulting in high contrast lighting.
To decrease contrast while using direct sunlight, place diffusers between the light source and the set or utilize white fill cards on the opposite side of the main light source to achieve light uniformity.
To further increase contrast when using direct sunlight, we would use black cards on the opposite side of where the main light is coming from.
Do’s and don'ts when you are using natural light
Do’s - Indirect daylight:
- For optimal results, it is ideal that your windows face north, as this will minimize direct exposure to daylight. In the case of being located in the southern hemisphere, the opposite holds true.
- When your windows face south, west, or east, seek a suitable location in your house, workplace, studio, or office
- Position yourself to face the main light source or at a slight angle for directional lighting. This creates a gradual light to dark effect in your image, from top to bottom or top left to bottom right. Ideal for overhead or higher angle shots.
- For optimal results, consider positioning the main light to the left and allowing it to smoothly traverse the image from left to right (or vice versa). This technique is effective for capturing various angles, ranging from parallel shots to overhead views (flat lay).
- Turn off all ambient lights to avoid interference with daylight, shadows, and color temperature.
Don’ts - indirect daylight:
- Avoid positioning the main light source in a way that directly hits the food/plate from the front, above the set, or the bottom edge of the frame. These angles often result in one-dimensional and flat images.
- Avoid multiple light directions. If you have windows facing south and west, choose one as the main light direction and cover the other to prevent shadowing in multiple directions. This will make contrast adjustment easier.
Do’s - direct sunlight:
- Position yourself near a window with consistent direct sunlight for an extended duration. Given that the sun's position changes, the lighting and shadows will also shift accordingly. If your chosen location only receives 5-10 minutes of direct sunlight, it will be challenging to work efficiently and capture your desired outcome.
- Ensure there is space between the light source (window) and your set, as well as to the right and top of your set, to accommodate your light shaping tools ( lights diffusers and bounce boards) https://aecorebackers.com/collections/accesories/products/light-diffusers
- Ensure all ambient lights are turned off to avoid interfering with daylight, shadows, and color temperature.
Don’ts - direct sunlight:
- North-facing windows may not receive direct sunlight. East and west-facing windows may limit the availability of direct sunlight for shooting.
- Avoid using multiple light sources. If you have windows facing south and west, choose one as your main light source and block the other. Otherwise, your image will have shadows that go in different directions, making it difficult to adjust contrast.
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