Tips + Techniques

How to Photograph with Only Natural Light Like a True Pro

August 29, 2020

By Jacqueline Tobin

© Sullivan & Sullivan Photography

There’s nothing like harnessing the power of the sun to elevate a photo shoot. Take a look at these pointers on understanding how to photograph with natural light—at weddings, in boudoir shoots, for creative window-light portraits and much more.

For even more lighting insight, check out these next-level lighting tips for wedding and engagement photographers, plus honing your portrait lighting basics, expanding your repertoire with more creative techniquesimitating natural light no matter where you are, and mastering your lighting tools.

9 Ways to Balance Natural Light and Dark Shadows Before a Wedding Ceremony

photographing with natural light
©  Paulo Santos Photography

For wedding photographer Paulo Santos, light and the point of an image are intrinsically linked. “This is just the way I see things. Both depend on each other and affect how I feel about the image, and ultimately if I’ll decide to take the photo,” he explains. “Seeing images where these two elements are not working together in unison just feels incredibly disjointed to me.

Santos loves the challenge of finding a natural, interesting light source. “I walk into a room and look at the environment, doorways, skylights, windows, blinds, mirrors, the floor, anything that gets my interest.”

Discover Santos’s approach to photographing various aspects of a wedding—the bride, the dress, the champagne toast, etc.—using only ambient light to draw out the delicate details here.

Tips to Shooting Creative Indoor Portraits Using Only Window Light

ambient light for window portraits
© Jyo Bhamidipati

Staying in the home for extended periods of time—as we all have during the pandemic—probably isn’t something that you are used to, and you might be struggling to find the motivation to shoot or even to find something interesting to shoot. You might not have space for big studio lights, but working with what you have—indoor window light—doesn’t have to be complicated or stressful either. You can learn to use natural light in different creative ways, even with only one window, by simply changing your perspective. Find out how award-winning fine-art lifestyle photographer Jyo Bhamidipati changed hers here.

3 Ways Natural Light Can Shape Your Boudoir Portraits

natural light shapes boudoir shots
© Beautifully Undressed Boudoir

Jess Pereira, of Beautifully Undressed Boudoir, thinks of herself as a natural-light worker. “I love to see natural shadows fall on the face and body. To me, they help create mood in my images. I can use the light to highlight certain parts of the body and to shade certain parts too, making the images more thought-provoking.”

In boudoir photography shadows help to make the female form look even more flattering when they hug the body and wrap around a woman’s natural curves. Pereira shows you how it’s done here.

How Photographers Are Embracing Ambient Light

art of photographing with natural light
 © Sullivan & Sullivan Photography

To embrace the ins and outs of shooting with only available light is to understand not only the irreplaceable dynamism of sunlight, but also the unforeseen circumstances that can strip a shoot of artificial aid when a photographer least expects it. Across the fashion, portrait, wedding and editorial spheres, eight shooters dive into how they have flexed their natural-lighting muscles by simply sculpting what was in front of them here.

How to Take Better Golden Hour Portraits Using Only Natural Light

natural light tips and tricks for your photos
© Manny Ortiz | YouTube

The golden hour may be the most prized piece of the photographic clock, but shooting portraits during a rising or setting using only natural light presents its own set of challenges.

Watch as photographer Manny Ortiz breaks down a few handy approaches to getting the best golden hour photos using only natural light in this video.