Learning to understand and use light is one of the key elements to make your photographs stand out. But it’s also a challenging skill to master. Light can come in so many forms and have so many qualities. If you want to handle light, the best way is to practice one kind at a time. Here is a one that almost never fails to produce captivating photos.
Light helps tell the story of the photograph. The right light can transform an otherwise ordinary scene into something extraordinary. It can set the mood in a photograph. Light can help isolate an image. It can also reveal form and texture. It can create a feeling of depth. Light has so many qualities; an endless array of ways it can strike and bring out a subject that books have been written about it.
If we limit ourselves to natural light, more specifically sunlight, in particular one kind always makes an experienced photographer’s heart beat a little quicker. Have you noticed how beautiful the light from a low hanging sun is? I am not talking about sunset, although that is indeed beautiful. No, I am rather thinking about sunshine either a little earlier than sunset, like late afternoon or equally beautiful; some time after sunrise in the late morning.
Most experience photographers know that the light in the morning or in the afternoon is gorgeous, particularly when used as side light, that is light that falls on the subject from one side. Generally, side light is a very modulating light, it is a key light to bring out dimensions and textures, and it makes object appear three-dimensional by the distinct shadows it creates. Side light is usually regarded as very attractive and appealing and more so side light from an early or late sun.
Depending on the time, light from a low hanging sun may cast a warm tint on the subject, but what I really want to emphasize is the modulating quality of a low sun. The light sweeps across the scene, creating a pattern of striking highlights and shadows as it comes in from a low sky.
Position yourself so that the light from the sun comes in from one side relative to yourself. Almost anything you photograph in such light will turn into a pleasing photograph. You can hardly spoil it. What about sun from an open sky, is that not suppose to be harsh and rather unforgiving, you may ask. Yes, when the sun is high on the sky that is so, but when it gets closer to the horizon the sun rays moves through the atmosphere at an angle and thus have a longer way to pass before it hits the ground. That forces the sun rays to scatter into the atmosphere, more than at midday, which makes the sky into a light source of its own and wraps the sunlight around any object lit by the sun.
The sunlight in the morning or in the afternoon creates an extraordinarily beautiful light. Try it out yourself and I am sure you will be convinced—if you haven’t already given it a try.