Unlocking the Secrets of Natural Light

Natural light is often touted as the photographer's best friend, yet many struggle to harness its full potential. This disconnect stems from the oversimplification of natural light usage and the expectation that it should automatically enhance photographs. 

Coming to you from Alex Kilbee with The Photographic Eye, this insightful video dives into the complexities of working with natural light. Kilbee challenges the conventional wisdom surrounding natural light and encourages viewers to move beyond basic concepts like shooting during golden hour. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the specific qualities of available light and adapting your approach accordingly to break free from creative limitations.

Kilbee introduces a framework for analyzing light by categorizing it as either "active" or "passive." Active light, like the midday sun or dramatic shadows, plays a dominant role in the scene, while passive light, such as an overcast sky, creates a softer and more subtle effect. By identifying the type of light present, you can better understand its characteristics and leverage them to your advantage. Kilbee references photographers like Sally Mann and Herb Ritts, who excel at utilizing specific qualities of light to evoke distinct moods and atmospheres in their work.

Beyond simply identifying the type of light, Kilbee encourages photographers to observe how light interacts with their surroundings. He suggests paying attention to the direction, intensity, and color of light throughout the day, even when you don't have your camera. This practice trains your eye to see light's nuances and anticipate its effects on your photographs. By understanding the behavior of light, you can work with it collaboratively, rather than fighting against its inherent characteristics. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Kilbee.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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