What Is Natural Light Photography? Lighting Ideas and Tips

Natural light is crucial for any photo shoot, like portraits, landscapes, street photos, etc. You are probably searching for new ideas and tips for making natural light photography. You are at the right place, then. 

This article is designed with the best ideas and tips for natural lighting photography. The major topics you will cover by reading this content are— 

  • What Is Natural Light Photography?
  • Difference Between Natural Light and Artificial Light in Photography
  • The Characteristics of Natural Light and Different Types of Natural Light?
  • Which Photography Uses More Natural Light?
  • Natural Light Photography Tips for Getting Outstanding Photos

So, no more talking; let’s get started. 

What Is Natural Light Photography?

What Is Natural Light Photography

Natural light photography is a type of photography that uses sunlight or natural light as a light source for photoshoots. Natural lighting photography usually avoids artificial light when taking photos, and this photography mainly occurs during the daytime to utilize the sunlight.

Moreover, the sunlight varies according to the daytime, weather, and location. For instance, a sunny day gives full brightness, whereas an overcast day provides cloudy views.

Natural light is crucial for numerous photography types, such as portraits, landscapes, documentaries, wedding photography, street photography, food photography, and more. 

Photographers always prioritize natural light for photography, and they take the shots at golden hours because it brings life and aesthetics to their photos.

What Is Natural Lighting in Photography?

Natural lighting in photography refers to the opposite of artificial lighting. In this lighting system, photographers use the sun or natural light as the source of photoshoot lighting, and they don’t use any artificial or artificial lights.

Natural lighting is the primary source of light in photography that beginner and professional photographers use in different types of photoshoots.

Difference Between Natural Light and Artificial Light in Photography

Difference Between Natural Light and Artificial Light in Photography

When discussing the differences between natural and artificial light, it comes to mind first that natural light is the light fall of the sun, whereas artificial light is artificial. You will also get more differences between these two lighting systems. 

Natural light is mainly volatile and the quality of natural light changes depending on the weather and daytime. For this reason, natural light is unpredictable. You cannot control it. 

On the other hand, artificial light is more consistent, and you can control it according to your wish. You don’t need to wait for a cloud or golden hours when you have artificial light. 

What Are the Characteristics of Natural Light?

Natural light is considered the most basic form of the lighting system in photography. Though it is available and comes from nature, it contains some characteristics that make it more different. Here are some characteristics of natural light to discuss.

Color Temperature

Color temperature is considered one of natural light’s most essential characteristics because it changes itself throughout the day. This mainly occurs due to the positioning changes of the Earth and the Sun. 

For that reason, we see different wavelengths of light at different times of the day. For instance, golden hour contains warmer color temperatures in its natural light. On the other hand, the color temperature gets less warm at high noon because of direct sunlight flow. 

Besides, the weather also can affect color temperature for its depth of clouds, snowfall, and more.


Another characteristic of natural light is the intensity of the light source. It’s often called the quantity of light, which is used to describe how much light falls on the subject. 

The intensity of natural light varies according to the daytime and the weather. For instance, the power gets higher and deeper on a sunny day at noon. Also, it gets lower on a cloudy or stormy day or a few hours before sunset. 


The sun also affects the direction of natural light as it hits the subject. The direction of natural light is essential depending on what kind of photoshoot you will do. 

For instance, if you do portrait photography at midday, the natural light will be directed downward on a subject. And it can be unflattering. 

Quality of Light

The quality of light is certainly a characteristic of natural light. Photographers need quality of light depending on their photoshoot types, such as portraits, street shots, and more.

For more explanation, if you want to make portrait photoshoots, you will need soft and diffused light, especially at golden hours. However, to shoot black-and-white landscapes or street photos, it’s essential to have hard natural light because it gives a high contrast to your photoshoots. 

Direction of Natural Light in Photography

As the earth moves around the sun and the time changes its duration, the natural light also changes its direction. You will get different lighting directions when taking photos in natural light, such as front lighting, side lighting, top lighting, and backlighting. Here are details of them. 

Front Lighting

Front lighting is the most popular direction of natural light in photography. You can create a front-lit image by placing your subject in the direct position of the sunlight. Because in this position, the sun directly blows its light towards the subject face and front part. 

Photographers always want the light to fall on the subject’s body. They use front lighting, where the sun is behind the photographer and in front of the issue.

Side Lighting

Side lighting mainly occurs when natural light falls on the side of the subject. Sidelight shadows the subject on the other side of the light source. It gives the issue more depth and shape. 

In portrait photography, photographers choose a 45-90 degree angle with natural side light to make a 3d appearance of a person. 

Top Light

Top light mainly comes from the upper side and falls upon the subject. Most professional photographers don’t allow top light for their photoshoots because it creates a type of useless shadow on the subject’s body.

Back Lighting

The backlighting position will appear when you place your subject in front of the daylight. It means that the sun takes place behind the subject. Photographers use the backlight for different purposes, such as capturing a silhouette photo with only the subject’s shape. Also, they use it for adjusting the angle of photoshoots. 

What Are the Different Types of Natural Light?

Natural Light is a comprehensive lighting source that directly comes from the sun. It contains different types and genres that are used for particular photoshoots. Here you will get different types of natural Light. 

Hard/direct Light

Hard Light in natural light photography occurs when the sun provides direct Light on a full bright day with no clouds, fog, or snow in the sky. Hard Light effectively intensifies colors and makes the subject appear a little crisper. 

Hard Light makes the scenes look flat if you use it as a front light. It is the primary lighting source of street photography on the day.

Soft/diffused Light

Soft Light or diffused Light is the opposite of hard Light in natural light photography. Natural soft Light mainly occurs in the morning when the sun appears less bright or on a cloudy day when the clouds diffuse the sunshine and spread it with less intensity. 

Portrait photos get more flattering under soft Light as it is most gentle on the skin. For that reason, photographers love soft and diffused Light. 

Reflected Light

The natural Light that gets reflected from a surface to the subject is called reflected Light in Natural Light for photography. This Light can be bounced off the walls, ground, or other surfaces. 

Reflected Light creates a soft glow because the light intensity is reduced and spreads wider when it bounces.

Astronomical Twilight

Astronomical twilight is another type of natural Light that usually appears half an hour before sunrise or half an hour after sunset when the sun’s geometric center stays at 18 degrees down the horizon. 

In this lighting, the sky flows a faint illumination seen as dark by human eyes, especially under the urban lit area. Astronomical twilight is usually more visible to the camera sensor than to human eyes. Moreover, photographers need to be fast with their cameras to capture photos in the twilight.

Dappled Light

Dappled Light is natural lighting produced when sunlight passes through an object like a tree leaves or brunches. In this lighting, some parts of the area are lit and absorbed, and others are patchy and dappled. 

Photographers consider it as an alternative style of natural light for photography. You can capture amazing photos if you use the dappled Light accurately.

Which Photography Uses More Natural Light?

Natural light is the primary lighting source of all types of photography. From beginners to professionals, every photographer uses natural light for different photoshoots. Here are some photography genres that use natural light the most. 

Portrait Photography

Portrait photography is typically about using more natural light to capture people both in candid and fashion photography. Because natural light gives a special glow to the model’s face and body skin, especially during golden hours, which is more effective in highlighting the real beauty of the subject.

No doubt, artificial light is also used for creative portrait photography, but natural light affects it on another level. Moreover, in portrait photoshoots, soft and diffused light gets more flattering on the skin.

Landscape Photography

Landscape photography is totally about capturing scenery in the shots, such as a forest view, mountain view, lake view, and more. For that reason, landscape photography must use natural light. Because sometimes artificial light cannot give the best performance for this. 

Moreover, landscape photography often needs different light sources, such as front light, backlight, split light, hard light, or upper light, and you can easily get them from the natural lighting source. 

Documentary Photography

Documentary photography mainly focuses on straightforward and accurate representation of people, places, objects, environments, and events. For that reason, documentary photography uses natural light to highlight the real view of the images. 

When people make documentaries with other people, they don’t need the luxury of moving the subject around or using reflectors and diffusers. They just focus on the representation of actual facts and scenery that can be perfectly captured by using natural light. 

Wedding Photography

Wedding photography is a special photoshoot genre as it captures the special moments of a couple and their loveable memories. As most wedding ceremonies take place indoors, it gets tricky to capture shots with natural light. 

Despite this, many photographers use natural light in wedding photography to highlight real beauty, especially when they capture outdoor wedding shots. They try to utilize the golden hours because it flatters the skinned bride and groom perfectly. 

Moreover, you can also use natural light in indoor photoshoots using reflected or split light.

Food Photography

Food photography is a genre of photoshoots that captures appetizing food photos. And for that, it requires perfect lighting techniques. Food photographers often use window light for their food photoshoots. Also, outdoor food photography is more interesting because of the natural light source. 

By spreading natural light, the window creates soft and diffused light, which makes the food dishes look more delicious and mouthwatering. When making food photos with natural light, try to soften the light by putting a white material opposite the window. It will give an extra glow and beauty to the food.

Natural Light Photography Tips for Getting Outstanding Photos

In the above, you got numerous ideas on photography with natural light. Now, you will learn some natural light photography tips for making your photos outstanding. 

Choose the Best Setting for Your Camera

Camera setting is the first step to getting outstanding photos with natural light. As a photographer, you must choose the best camera setting according to the photography type and natural lighting source. Because different environments and lighting sources demand different camera settings. 

For instance, if you want to capture shots on a sunny day, you should set your ISO between 50 and 100 and choose a fast shutter speed of 1/100th of a second because it will help to optimize exposure on bright days.

Find the Right Lighting Conditions

Natural light takes its colors and conditions totally depending on the weather and daytime because of the earth’s movement. That’s why you should find the right lighting conditions according to your photography type. 

For instance, if you want to take some street photos or landscapes with high brightness, you should choose the midday time. Because it helps you capture the shots with direct hard light to highlight every detail of the scene perfectly. 

On the other hand, if you want to capture portrait photoshoots, it will be best to shoot during golden hours or on overcast days because it will give you diffused light which is best for portrait photography. 

Find the Best Angle

The angle and position are other important facts to consider when taking shots with natural light. Because depending on the lighting conditions, photographers need to choose the best angle in indoor and outdoor photoshoots. 

For instance, if you want to take indoor photoshoots with natural light, you should place the subject facing toward the window. It will help you remove the shadows from the subject’s body. 

Try to use a reflector and put it at the opposite angle of the natural lighting source. Also, you can use split light to highlight one part of the body or face.

Shoot at Golden Hour

Golden hours are considered the best moments for taking shots in natural light because this period of time gives the best color temperature and direction of light for photography. 

To utilize the golden hours properly and take astonishing photos, try to make photo sessions one hour after sunrise or one hour before sunset. Here are some tips for taking photos at golden hours—

  • Try the warm golden hour colors to include positive energy
  • Utilize creative side light
  • Shoot toward the sun to make silhouettes
  • Try to use long shadows as part of the composition

Shoot in Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture priority mode is effective in keeping your aperture fixed and altering your shutter speed. It works great if you want to have the same depth of field in their pictures. 

The aperture determines the details or blur looks of the background. It will give you the best opportunity to experiment with the deep and shallow depths of the field and create some outstanding photos. Here are some techniques to shoot in aperture priority mode—

  • Tap on the aperture priority mode
  • Select between manual or automatic ISO
  • Alter the Aperture values
  • Take photos with different apertures

Use a Light-Catching Backdrop

In natural light photography, the backdrop plays an important role. As you will not use artificial light, you should use a light-catching backdrop. It will help you highlight the subject properly and take some outstanding photos. Here are some tips for using light-catching backdrops— 

  • Shooting on a White Backdrop
  • Shooting on a Black Backdrop
  • Try a good contrast between the subject and backdrop. 

Use a Reflector

If you try just natural light in photography, you can try reflectors to utilize the perfect lighting source because people cannot control the direction of natural light. 

In many cases, you might not get the proper lighting because of the weather or the time of the day. That’s why you should use a reflector because it will bounce natural light in the direction you need. 

Use Variations in Lighting to Capture Different Categories of Images

Light variation is another fact that photographers must use when taking photos in natural light. Because it helps to capture different categories of images. Here are some tips for using variations in lighting— 

  • Try straight light or front light on the subject because it will highlight the subject’s face and front body parts. 
  • Try using natural light indoors, such as split light or side light from the window. 
  • Avoid direct sunlight for portrait photos because it will harm the real glow of the face and skin. 
  •  Try to make your photos unique with dappled light. 
  • Try to experiment with side lighting because it gives a soft, light touch to the skin. 

Try to Shoot in the Morning or Evening

You already know that the morning and the evening is the best lighting source for photography. Besides containing golden hours, morning and evening provide the best diffused and soft light. 

For that reason, you should take photos in the morning or evening because they will give you the advantage of taking cool and fun photos with the natural light of the sun. 

Get an Advantage from Weather Conditions

Weather always plays a key role when taking photos in natural light. As the weather changes its modes, you should be prepared for it. And try to get an advantage from the weather conditions. 

For instance, if you want to take some flattering portrait photos with soft and diffused lights, you should select an overcast or cloudy day.

Use a Polarising Filter

A polarising filter plays an essential role in taking serious landscape photography. It can change the way of the camera views. So, you can use a polarising filter to make some fascinating landscape photos like island or mountain photoshoots. 

Remember that will reduce the light amount of your camera sensor. So, you should avoid it when taking photos in low-light situations. 

Benefits of Using Natural Light

When reading this line, you already know about the vast importance and advantage of using natural light in photography. Despite that, here you will get more benefits of natural lighting photography. 

Low Cost

The first benefit of using natural light is that it does not cost you. Because it comes from the sun, you don’t need any artificial equipment. That’s why it’s a free light source for photographers. And from beginners to professionals, every photographer uses natural light for their photography purposes. 

Indoor and Outdoor Function

Natural light is a great lighting source for outdoor photoshoots. Also, it has a profound impact on indoor photography lighting. Because natural light comes into indoor places through windows and doors and creates interesting lighting shapes for numerous photography types. 

From portraits to still life, you can use natural light for every photo shoot purpose. 


Another benefit of using natural light is that it’s always incredibly convenient because of the direct presence of the sun. It helps to capture the natural beauty and color of the environment. That’s why photographers use natural light and coordinate their photoshoots according to the weather and time. 


You know well that natural light gets affected and manipulated according to the weather and the daytime. That’s why it provides various lighting, such as soft, hard, reflected, and more. It can be cool or warm and intense or subtle. 

Photographers can use natural light as front light, backlight, split light, and more, according to their photography types. 

FAQs About Natural Light Photography

Why is natural light better in photography?

Natural light comes from the sun, creating a great glow on the subject’s skin that highlights the natural beauty of photos.

What is the best natural light for photography?

It depends on what type of photoshoots you are making. For example, soft and diffused light works great if you want to make portrait photoshoots. On the other hand, hard light will be the best if you do street photography at midday.

What is the best time of day for natural light photography?

The golden hours are considered the best time of the day for making photography with natural light because it creates a soft and diffused light that creates a beautiful glow on the subject.

What equipment do you need for natural lighting photography?

To make natural light photography, you can use different equipment such as a DSLR camera, tripod, reflector, and many other things.

What is the best camera for natural light photography?

Several cameras are famous for taking photos with natural light, such as Nikon, Canon, and many more. You can choose one of them that you can afford.


Natural light plays a vital role in making fun photoshoots. This article gives you vast ideas and tips on natural light photography, including its benefits. Now you can utilize natural lighting for your desired photoshoots. So, now it’s your turn. Go forth, and make your photography with natural light.

Outsource Photo Editing, Easily.


About the Author

I'm also on

Amy Grace


Commercial Photographer, Writer

Amy Grace has been engaged in commercial photography for a long time. She has enough proficiency and skill set in photography and has nailed the task up to the mark and has helped a lot of entrepreneurs create a brand. Aside from photography, Amy has passion for travelling.

Read more from Amy Grace

Pixel-perfect Image Editing Solution for Ecommerce