How to Use Natural Light in Your Photography

Natural light is one of those things that we all take for granted – that is, until we try to take a photograph. How many times have you tried to capture a fleeting moment, only to realize later on that your photo has been rendered entirely useless due to the lack of sufficient natural light?

However, taking good photographs is not a matter of chance and luck, rather a combination of factors that concern skill and situational awareness. Unlike studio lightning or flashes, you have less creative and structural control over natural lighting. But, like many things, natural light can be ‘’manipulated’’ to your advantage. Due to its unpredictable nature, you have to find creative ways to work around it. But until you get to that point, you will need to learn a few basic concepts.

This article will cover a few brief tips and advices that will help you, as a beginner, learn how to use natural light to your advantage. Also, you can read more photography guides for rookies, photoshop tutorials and camera reviews on Without further ado, here is how to use natural light in your photography.

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The time of Day Outdoors

Many professional photographers will advise rookies not to shoot in the middle of the day. The most common reason they invoke is the fact that, even though the bright sun might technically confer enough natural light to give your photographs a ‘’gentle’’ and ‘’natural’’ touch, it is very hard to control and will often have the opposite effect – giving your photograph a harsh appearance.

While this is entirely true for a variety of reasons, this issue can be easily solved by using the right options. And by using them right, you can bend the natural light to your will.

Therefore, one great way of preventing the bright sun from affecting the quality of your photographs is by using a polarizing filter.

Or, even better, shooting in an area where a good chunk of the light can be diffused.

Mornings and evenings are one of the best times of the day to shoot.

At these two points of the day, the sun is lower in the sky and casts softer shadows. Another advantage of shooting during the morning is that you can capture the light’s natural progression as the sun is rising.

The rising sun, along with the progression in form and shape of the shadows, will provide your photos with interesting colors and textures that can be further exploited and modified in post.

Natural Light Angle and Location

Now that we know that the best time to shoot is when the sun is lower in the sky, it is time to decide the angle at which the light will hit your subject and the location.

The easiest and most obvious option is to position your subject in such a way that the light shines directly on them, as the sun is lowering. This will give the subject a soft, warm and welcoming glow.

Furthermore, the lowering sun will cast a few interestingly angled shadows on the subject, but without being obtrusive and ruining the contrast of the photo.

Shooting during the evening sun is also a great opportunity to play around and experiment with some interesting lens flare effects.

Here’s a video tutorial filmed with a Sony a6300.

How to Use Natural Light Indoors

With a little practice and patience, you can easily learn how to manipulate and work around natural light outside. However, things drastically change once you intend to capture natural light indoors. To take good photographs indoors, you will have to learn how to exploit window light and ambient light to your advantage.

Let us start with the window light. This is probably the most versatile indoor light that you can use, and you will especially love playing with it if you are the type of photographer who likes to experiment with various angles and filters.

Window light can be great for photographing good, still life, objects and, most importantly, portraits. For example, by positioning your subject near a window, at eye-height, you can obtain a photograph that is similar in style and atmosphere to old paintings.

At its core, window light it is a form of side lightning that can be manipulated by changing the distance from the source. By doing this, you can obtain some interesting contrasts and visual effects that can make your photographs seem either soft and warm, or distant and harsh. To put it simply, the most important thing is trying to maintain the depth of the light by exposing for the highlights that you are intending to capture. Ultimately, it all comes down to what message and feeling you want to transmit through your photograph or the atmosphere you want to create – so do not hesitate to experiment with different angles and distances.


A common belief that many rookie photographers hold is that bad weather, whether rainy or overcast, will result in bad photographs. This can’t be farther from the truth – overcast lighting is extremely easy to work with because, to put it bluntly, there is not much light to manipulate.

However, this does not mean you can just go outside and snap a random succession of photos without putting any thought and effort into positioning and angling. If taken from the right angle and at the right time of day (let us say, during an overcast afternoon), the photograph can evoke a myriad of feelings, such as coldness, bleakness, loneliness, nostalgia, and so on and so forth.

If you live by the sea, even better – the contrast between the color of the sky during overcast weather and the sea can become the stuff of top-notch photography.

Light Diffusion

If you are having trouble shooting due to unfavorable lighting conditions, you can easily work around this issue by trying to diffuse the light. This works perfectly fine whether you are using the sun or the flash of your camera.

So, how exactly can you diffuse the light? There are several ways to do this, the first one is using the woods to your advantage. More precisely, the leaves and the shadows cast by them will prevent too much light from hitting your subject, while at the same time providing sufficient openings and gaps that allow direct light to enter.

Obviously, this is just one simple method to diffuse light out of a myriad. If you are shooting outdoors, under a clear sky and a bright sun but you do not have immediate access to the woods, move your subject to a place that provides shade, under a tree, for example.

Whatever object you decide to play your subject under, the main idea is to manipulate the natural light and place enough of it on their face.

If you learn how to work with diffuse lighting in photography, you will gain the ability to produce wonderful images, even in the most unfavorable locations or ambient and lighting conditions. As always, the important thing is to experiment.


If you have just picked up photography as a hobby, these are the most basic things you have to know about how to use natural light. To surmise, remember that the best time of the day to shoot photographs is during the evening, that overcast weather is no reason to avoid shooting, and that you can easily create light diffusion by using your surroundings.

Last but not least, always experiment with new angles and shades. Follow these simple tips, and soon enough you will gain the ability to produce wonderful images.

Featured Image Source: Pixabay