Essential Lighting Tips For Outdoor Photography

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As a photographer, you’re well aware of the prominent role that lighting plays in photos, especially those taken outdoors. While the natural lighting necessary to create great shots provides new opportunities, it also presents challenges. With these tips and tricks, however, those challenges can be easily overcome, transforming your outdoor photos from “okay” to “A+.”

Photography Tips | Essential lighting tips for outdoor photography.

Essential Lighting Tips For Outdoor Photography

Lighting plays a huge role in creating quality photos, with the direction, quantity, and quality of light all making a difference. Shooting in a studio uses artificial light that can be easily controlled and changed, but that isn’t possible in the great outdoors. Getting the perfect shot requires working with whatever nature provides. Daylight changes by the hour, with the weather, and with the seasons, and these changes all affect your photo’s final appearance. Outdoors, you don’t have the control you do in the studio, and this must be taken into consideration with outdoor photography.

Photography Lighting Tips

Quick Tips for Working with Outdoor Lighting:

  1. Avoid direct sunlight: Direct sunlight is not only harsh on the eyes, but its presence can create equally harsh shadows. Shooting in the shade eliminates these worries.
  2. Shoot on a cloudy day: Clouds liven up colors and create beautiful shadows.
  3. Use a reflector, and if you don’t have one, find one: Reflectors are the easiest way to add light to photos, but they don’t have to be expensive—nature provides reflectors, too. Whether it be a tree painted white or a piece of foam, be on the lookout for one of nature’s existing reflectors.
  4. Shoot at 70mm or more: When you’re balancing the sun’s intensity with ever-changing nature in the great outdoors, you don’t want your photo to appear distorted. Eliminate this by shooting high.
  5. And finally, if bright light is unavoidable: Always control the direction of light, use a reflector, and try to reproduce that studio effect you may have gotten spoiled by.

Outdoor Photo Basics: What’s in Your Photography Kit?

Stock up on these tools of the trade to start creating beautiful outdoor photos:

  • Zoom lens
  • Flashgun
  • Reflector: A highly important tool, reflectors are key to adding light and creating the perfect picture

Outdoor Photography

Shooting With Existing Light

The natural light you encounter is called existing light, whether it be bright signs or a fireplace’s glowing flame. Daylight doesn’t count in this category, but moonlight does, so nighttime outdoor photos are considered existing light images.

What’s great about existing light is that photos look and feel natural. This eliminates the need to use fancy features and focuses on your photo, allowing for more creativity. Without lighting equipment, you also have the freedom to move as you please.

Shooting Nighttime Photos

The great thing about nighttime photos is that results occur over more than one exposure, so options abound for capturing that perfect shot. Short exposures emphasize well-lit areas, while long exposures showcase the detail of dark, secluded areas.

With nighttime photos, timing is crucial. The best time to shoot is just before dark, when dusk’s colors add a beautiful, dramatic background to your photos. After rainfall is another great time to shoot, especially if you’re aiming for a nature theme. Photos of dripping leaves offer a beautiful, natural look that is hard to achieve otherwise. Scenery that looks ordinary during the day also stands out more at night, while distant lights can create a striking effect you didn’t realize was possible.

Woods | Essential Lighting Tips For Outdoor Photography

The Direction of Light

As mentioned earlier, the direction of light plays as big of a role in your photos as the quality and quantity of the light itself. Familiarize yourself with the following and quality photos just are a click away.

1) Frontlighting
The type of light created when the sun is behind you (behind the photographer, in front of the subject) is referred to as frontlighting. While it appears to be the recipe for success, photos need to have a depth that is often impossible to achieve with frontlighting.

2) Side Lighting
Interesting effects are a click away once you learn to change the angle of light falling on your subject, whether it’s a bird or a pine tree. Change the angle by using a reflector, moving your subject (if this is possible), or moving closer or further away from the sun. Landscapes, nature, and animals can be incredibly impactful when photographed this way.

3) Backlighting
The type of light created when the sun is in front of you (in front of the photographer, behind the subject) is called backlighting. This type of lighting can be very effective in bright sunlight.

Author Bio: Brian Williams

Brian Williams is a marketing coordinator for Outdoor Photography Gear, a supplier of top quality photography accessories. In his spare time, Brian enjoys blogging and physical fitness, particularly golf and crossfit.

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