When it comes to photography courses and trying to improve the quality of your photos, learning about light isn’t that sexy is it? Many people would much prefer to learn about their shiny new camera or lenses, rather than being shown some easy natural light photography tips. But it’s fair to say that a good understanding and use of light will improve your photos far more than a whole bag full of cameras and accessories. As an added bonus, light is with us (almost) all of the time, and you don’t have to carry it around with you!! Sometimes, all it takes to create a much better photo is just a little thought and awareness of the light. So here’s a great natural light photography tip for certain bad weather days.
The London Eye
I was raised in London, and often go and re-visit my home town, one amazing attraction there is the London Eye, a huge Ferris wheel on the south bank of the River Thames, it moves around very slowly and offers fabulous views across the London and its skyline. When I paid a visit with my camera last year, the weather was awful, but despite that, I was still able to get a great shot of ‘The Eye’ with some beautiful light.
As you can see from this photo, the weather was stormy and cloudy and a few minutes before I took this shot, the light was very poor. I could see that although there was enough light to take a photo, it just wasn’t a good quality light, being very bland and grey, and I knew that if I just took a photo there and then (like many other people were doing!), that it would just end up being a typical snap, and most likely end up in the digital trashcan.
BUT… and this is where it gets interesting…. I could see that there were one or two very small breaks in the clouds and that if I waited, the sun might, just might break through and transform the scene with some wonderful light.
I could see the clouds moving across, and got my camera ready, I had to wait about 10 minutes, but then YES! it happened, what I’d been waiting for, a break in the clouds. The sun shone through and I got the shot that you see above, a beautifully lit scene with dark moody clouds that accentuate the ominous atmosphere of the image.
I had to be quick, and I had to be ready for it, the break in the clouds only lasted about 30 seconds and then it was gone.
Eilean Donan Castle
Here’s another example, this time of Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland. Although this image is dark and brooding and records the scene very nicely as a whole, the castle itself is dark and doesn’t stand out at all, the grey skies have cast a shadow over the whole scene.
But now look what happened just a few minutes later, the sun broke through for a few seconds and the light made the castle come alive. This image was obviously taken from a different viewpoint, but there’s no doubting the difference in the two photos. The castle now stands out and your eye is drawn to it.
Watch out for these stormy days, especially when the clouds are broken up just a little, the light can be just wonderful, and it’s a perfect time to take some great landscape photos.
Notice in these images that the main subjects are not in the centre of the frame, in fact they are off to the side. This is an important art and photographic principle called the ‘Rule of Thirds’ which can add a little drama to your photos.
Bernie Raffe is a working family portrait and wedding photographer, qualified to ‘Associate’ level with both the MPA (Master Photographers Association), and the SWPP (Society of Wedding and Portrait Photographers) in the UK. He loves sharing his passion for photography, and has produced a set of entertaining and informative lectures that show just how easy it is to improve your photography, and to take more creative and dramatic photos that will wow your friends and family. The course itself is very easy to follow and has a fun teaching style. See Become a Better Photographer for more information, and details about the course. Bernie’s website is Raffe photography.