One of my favorite things about spring is that it’s warm enough to shoot outside. I love shooting with natural light and will go to great lengths to use it for all of my shoots. Whether I’m setting up inside near a window or outside on my deck, there are some tips and tricks to shooting with natural light that I’d like to share and a couple might surprise you.
Having a camera and having light are the most important elements in photography. However, having light to work with is just the beginning. Knowing how to make the light work for you is the next step to improving your photography.
1) Sunny vs. Overcast Light
A lot of people think that a bright sunny day is better than a cloudy day for photography. This isn’t necessarily true. Unless you know how to work with this type of contrast in light, direct sun can cause harsh shadows and bright spots and can over or under expose certain areas of your shot that are important. Overcast skies are my favorite when I’m shooting food outside because the light is softer and more balanced. The clouds basically act as a natural diffuser and the results can be gorgeous.
2) Controlling the Light
Since Mother Nature has a mind of her own, you’ll want to be able to shoot no matter what she decides to do.
If you are shooting on a bright sunny day, you can position your own diffusers to balance the light on your subject. I highly recommend investing in a couple to have on hand. Or, if you have an umbrella on your deck, you can start with that. Take a couple pictures in the sunlight and then set up underneath the umbrella to see how it affects the results.
3) Manual Mode
I’m always pushing budding photographers to shoot Manual. I used to be intimidated by it in the beginning because I didn’t want to make all the decisions for the camera. However, the sooner you start becoming comfortable in Manual mode, the sooner you will start being able to shoot beautiful pictures in any type of situation. It helps you gain a much better understanding of ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture when you actually start adjusting them yourself. You can read about what they do, but until you start actually playing with them on your camera and seeing how they work together, I don’t think it truly makes sense.
The best way to learn manual is to go at your own pace. Go for a walk and shoot. A good thing to memorize is:
More light = wider aperture, higher ISO and slower shutter speed.
Less light = smaller aperture, lower ISO and faster shutter speed.
Adjust the aperture, ISO and shutter speed individually to help control how much light you’re letting into your camera.
I shot the Tomato Carpaccio salad by Jamie Oliver outside on my deck, using the deck umbrella as my diffuser and adjusting my camera settings in Manual mode to get the right effect. It worked out really well because then Mike and I could enjoy it afterwards. And, after a Midwest winter, there’s nothing quite like getting to eat a refreshing, colorful salad outside on a beautiful spring day.
4-5 heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
Extra-virgin olive oil 1 package of fresh raspberries
1 large ball of fresh mozzarella, torn into pieces
Handful of basil leaves
Note: I used a raspberry vinaigrette.
1. Arrange the tomatoes on a plate.
2. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.
3. In a small bowl, drizzle the raspberries with a little vinaigrette to taste.
4. Crush raspberries with a fork so it becomes like a dressing.
5. Top the tomatoes with torn mozzarella and the crushed raspberry dressing.
6. Scatter with basil leaves and serve.
All images © Regan Baroni 2016.