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How to Use Natural Lighting for Photography in Your Home

natural light in the kitchen
When it comes to lighting for photography, most photographers will tell you that nothing beats natural light. It’s nature’s gift to photography – a gift that will lead to amazing pictures with the best details. In a lot of cases, photos taken with natural lighting will require little to no editing!

However, this is not to say that all you need is natural light in order to take the best pictures. You should also learn how to use natural lighting for photography. Improper use of natural lighting can lead to pictures with harsh lighting and/or unflattering shadows.

Follow these Tips

You don’t have to worry because it’s very easy to maximize natural light for photography. Just follow these tips for best results:

  • Get to know the natural light at where you’re shooting.

Generally speaking, natural light can be anywhere from soft to harsh. Obviously, different times of the day will lead to different types of natural light. Natural light tends to be warmer during sunrise or sunset, while middays tend to have a stronger natural light. Make sure to experiment to find the right time for your shots.

A lot of photographers choose to shoot during the “golden hour”. This is the hour either right after the sun rises or just before it sets. If it’s a clear day, you won’t be able to beat the quality of natural light at these hours.

Also, observe how natural light affects the area. Does it flood the room entirely or does it bounce around the floor and the walls?

  • Prepare the room for the shoot.

Remove anything that shouldn’t be in the shot. Take out toys, tools and other clutter, and stage your room just the way you want. It doesn’t take a trained eye to notice a piece of Lego in the corner of what should be a food shot.

Also, it’s a good idea to turn off the lights when you’re already using natural light. Natural light doesn’t play well with artificial light.

  • Experiment with your camera’s settings.

Move away from Auto mode. Sure, shooting in Auto is fine, but you won’t be maximizing the capabilities of your camera.

A good first step is to shoot in Aperture Priority mode. Just as the name implies, you prioritize the aperture so you get to choose the aperture. You need to let in as much natural light as possible especially with indoor photography using natural light. For this, you can benefit from using a wide open aperture.

By using a wider aperture – one with a lower number – you’re focusing on the subject at hand. There’ll be shallow depth of field so the subject will really stand out especially with how the background will be blurred.

Start with an aperture of f/5 or f/6 if you’re doing portrait photography. Focus on the eyes to make sure that the entire face will be kept in focus.

Also, it’s a good idea to manipulate the white balance. This requires taking the camera out of its Auto White Balance mode. With this, you can experiment between Daylight and Cloudy.

It’s also a good idea to shoot in RAW rather than JPEG. This allows you more freedom during the editing stage.

  • Control the light.

Sometimes, natural light can be harsh. In most instances, it will provide good light on one side of the subject, but none on the other side. This is why it’s a must that you control the light.

A good way to do this is to use a backdrop that catches the natural light and bounces it back to the subject. A long piece of white cloth can work wonders to cradle the natural light around your subject. For more control, you can also use a light box.

You can also use a reflector. This helps reflect natural light back to your subject. A reflector is very helpful if only one side of the subject receives natural light. The use of a reflector is almost a must for outdoor portrait photography.

A nifty trick is to use a mirror. You can shoot your subject’s reflection in the mirror rather than the subject directly. You do need to experiment a bit to find the best angle and reflection. Just make sure that the mirror is clean and smudge-free! You can then crop the shot to remove any proof of a mirror.

  • Position the subject well.

As a general rule, position the subject a foot to 2 feet away from the window or door where the natural light is coming from. This is generally the perfect distance to take advantage of natural light without making it too harsh on the subject. Experiment with different angles to get the best one.

  • Use the curtains.

This is a good trick especially if you’re using natural light from the window. Sometimes, the light coming in can be too harsh. This is why there’s a need to diffuse it, and the best way to do it is to use the curtains.

Pull the curtains so that the natural light will pass through it. This can soften the light passing through and will help improve the exposure.

  • Think of the background.

This is helpful especially if it’s an outdoor shot. Use an interesting background that will match the theme of the photograph. It can be something as simple as a white wall or something as interesting as an antique door. Think of how the background will make the whole frame better.

The key here is to make sure that the background won’t take the focus out of the subject. Make sure to take clutter out of the frame.

You can also use the background to make the subject more comfortable. This is especially true if the subject is not comfortable standing and posing in front of the camera. Leaning on something like a tree or holding on to a rail can help make them feel more comfortable.

Try these Tips Today

As you can see, learning how to use natural lighting for photography requires experimentation. So try these tips today!