Available Light Basics: Shoot Any Time and Get Great Results

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When it comes to photography, available light is a critical component in creating compelling images. You can shoot any time of day and get great results; it’s simply a matter of knowing how to adjust based upon the time of day and the lighting conditions. We understand that you can’t always choose when you shoot, so here are a few tips to help you make the most of any opportunity:


Morning Shots: Many a photographer revels in morning light due to its softness and color transitions; however, the morning spans several hours and the lighting at 6:30 am is quite different from 10:00 am. Shooting before the sun becomes strong is ideal; your images will have a warm and soft feel. Try to find a morning light beam, maybe one cutting through the trees, where you can experiment positioning your subject partially in that space of light. This technique will add to the early morning sentiment in your photographs and will also demonstrate the variances in light.

Mid-Morning to Mid-Afternoon Shots:
The sun’s intensity can be a challenge, but it can also be an asset. Many outdoor sporting events take place during this time of day, and the bright light coupled with fast action can create some amazing picture moments. It really depends upon your subject matter and intentions. The harsh lighting from strong sun coupled with a cloudless day can make it extremely difficult to take great portraits. If you are photographing people in a posed environment, try using your camera flash as a ‘fill-flash’ to keep dark shadows from under your subjects’ eyes. A strong sun can create a powerful effect when photographing architecture or other subjects that benefit from strong contrasts.

Overcast Skies: Photographers often love overcast skies because this environment offers a softer light and can enhance skin tones. If you’re shooting portraits or posed shots, overcast lighting can be ideal. If you’ve been waiting for a time to photograph your kids, this is it! It can also be an excellent time to photograph flowers or experiment with macro photography. Even under overcast conditions a reflector can add just the right amount of fill light to your subject's eyes.


Twilight/Early Evening Shots: The twilight hours are the perfect time to practice your storytelling skills. You can play with backlighting your subjects or capture the sunset in all its glory. In many instances, the lighting becomes part of the subject matter as it can color your entire scene and create a particular sentiment. When experimenting with backlighting, you may want to try to underexpose the image just a bit to create a silhouette. Positioning your subject’s face toward the light at an angle can create an intimate portrait; the key is to use your time wisely as the sun will disappear in just a few minute’s time. And if you’ve ever wanted to experiment with high dynamic range photography, this is a great time of day to do so.

Find out what time the sun rises and sets in your neighborhood!

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