Using Natural Light in Photography in 8 Simple Steps

Today I am exploring how to use natural light in photography. I compiled eight simple steps to help guide you through the process.

Working with natural light in photography is very rewarding, if you know a few things on how to use it efficiently. Let’s face it. Not everybody has a professional photo studio, thus natural lighting is the most accessible solution to great photos.

There is a way to do it and there are some things you should avoid. Pretty simple, once you get the hang of it.

Meet Raven. I took this photo indoors close to large windows and with good natural light.

I have done my share of mistakes. Even recently while shooting pictures for this website. Until I started realizing what I did. I will have to wait for warmer weather for a re-shoot. Since right now we are in a windchill advisory and Tuesday morning is supposed to be -30 F with the windchill….way to cold for an outdoor shoot. But natural light is not only outside. There is plenty of it right inside your home. You can use these tips with people or like me with dogs or other pets. I just adore the newest addition of the family, Raven. She’s now 10 weeks old and growing like a weed.

1. Start with simple lighting situations

Don’t over-complicate things. Focus on only one lighting situation. Have one source of light and position the subject to face the light. Be almost in between the light and your subject.

2. For outdoor shoots, shoot in open shade

Open shade is the shade you get from buildings and structures. Or shoot on an overcast day. Avoid direct sunlight, as it casts harsh shadows. And if you shoot photos of people they will squint being in the direct sun.

3. Use catchlights

Catchlights are the reflections of the light in your subjects eyes. They give the eyes this little bit of sparkle.

4. Avoid dappled shade

Dappled shade is the shade you get underneath a tree, where spots of light come through. These turn often into blown highlights, where some parts of the picture are too light.

5. Avoid several different light sources

The reason for avoiding these, is that you can only set one color temperature or white balance at your camera, not several. If you use several different light sources, like natural light and a lamp then you get different color temperatures, which result in a color cast on the photo.

6. Use the golden hour

The golden hour is the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset, when the light is soft and angled.

7. Choose a low aperture indoors

Set your f-stop or aperture low. It will do two things: It helps you use all the light available indoors and it gives you a shallow depth of field, where your subject is in focus and the background blurry.

8. Use a reflector

Use a reflector to bounce natural light back on your subject. Thus avoiding shadows that are too deep.


These are simple tips that you can use anywhere you have natural light. Even inside your home. Just get close to your windows and turn off your lights and you’ll see what I mean.

Share below your pictures of using natural light.

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