Mastering Natural Light in Photography

If you’ve never heard this, let me be the first one to tell you. The ‘golden hour’ of photography is right before sunset and that is the time to take pictures outside. Meaning, the sun's light is most beautiful and flattering to you around sunset. 

But, the golden hour can also be right at sunrise, which is the time of day for the photoshoot I'm displaying here to explain outdoor lighting... so without further ado, here's the photoshoot to demonstrate how to use natural light when photographing.  

Note: This was a sunrise baby bump photoshoot (check out how gorgeous this couple is so early in the morning!) It was around 7:30 AM!!

So here are the reasons you want to take photos at sunrise or sunset:

The Sun gives your photos dimension / Using the sun as your prop

What I mean by that is you can use the sun to your advantage by playing with where it is in the shot. You can get soft light from behind that gives a lightness to the skin, you can use it as a backdrop giving a really light and gentle look to the photo, you can use sun rays to make you a beautiful background - there really are so many advantages to using 'the golden hour' for your photoshoots. 

If you do shoot photos in the middle of the day, look for shade. Due to the fact that the sun will hit directly above you. This can give harsh shadows that are not the most flattering for professional pictures.

Play Around with It

Taking the advice of incredibly talented and prolific portrait photographer Jeremy Cowart, in one of his videos he says to just play around and try to get something unpredictable. When we do this, it puts us out of our comfort zone but it also gives us creativity to make things happen when we previously wouldn’t know if we could get a certain shot. For me this shot below was me playing with the ISO and shutter speed. Depending on how fast my shutter was, it would give me a lighter or darker subject. In this photo, the girl is much more darkened and this is because I had a very low ISO and my shutter speed was quite high, allowing for less light to come in through the lens.

Stay Away from Full Frontal Sun

If  you’re looking for gorgeous skin and bright images go for the sun behind the head of the subject (mostly). This gives the hair beautiful sunlit highlights and also keeps away shadows the sun can form on the face. This is also why you want to shoot at the golden hour, because you have more control for where you can put your subject in relation to where the sun is hitting.


Using Shadows

I should say, that if you're looking for a moody look, get into full frontal sun for some dramatic shadows. These types of photos can be very beautiful and interesting when using shadows well.

I would love to hear your thoughts on how you use the sun for your photoshoots.

Or, have you ever been told by a photographer that their choice to shoot is at the 'golden hour'?