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Photographing with Natural Light

Examining How Natural Light Varies Depending On Direction.
Model: Steph
Location: Disused Barn, Glynde (map link)

I’ve worked with Steph a number of times over the past couple of years, and our working portfolios owe a lot to each other. One of us will contact the other with an idea for a shoot and we’ll work together to try and achieve the look we’re after – occasionally we learn something along the way…

This time we wanted to focus on photographing with natural light adding some drama to a bit of urbex location shooting. The sun was shining brightly over Sussex so there was plenty of natural light to work with, and we headed to a disused barn just South of Glynde.

Shot 1 (above) was upstairs in the old cow shed at a South East facing window so the light was entering at an oblique angle to the model. Taking a position to the side of the window, in the beam of light, Steph was lit in quite a dramatic fashion, and by slightly underexposing the image, the amount of light that spilled into room is kept controllable. This highlighted the beam like quality of the sunlight and meant that in places, Steph’s edges could be lost to the background, which we were trying to achieve.

Shot 2 (above) was downstairs at a South facing window, the light was less beam like and was really flooding in. This gives a wraparound effect and with the
white balance upped slightly for warmth, and blacks boosted for contrast, the resulting look is very different to Shot 1. Steph’s outline is much more clearly defined, and has an almost ethereal glow.

Shot 3 (below) is at the same spot, with the same strong natural lighting from the South, but this time adding a small strobe at 1/4 power in a mini beauty dish with a gold reflector for warmth. The light from the strobe obviously stopped Steph appearing as a sihouette, and combined with the sunlight makes it easy to ‘blow out’ areas of the image for a really soft look, whilst keeping definition of other areas, such as the wall textures.

Shot 4 (below). The final shot was at a doorway that faces North. Here the light was more suited to a classic silhouette, as less light was spilling into the barn. Without the strong direct sunlight of the South facing windows, it was easier to isolate Steph against the background with a strong outline. In this case, the image was actually over-exposed to add a little mystery to the outline of the model. It also removed any distracting details that were visible outside.

So that’s a look at how working with the natural ambient light, can change the overall feel of an image quite dramatically. Please feel free to comment, or to add any observations you may have yourself…


About the author

James Hedley: Founder and owner of James Hedley Photography. James provides wedding, portrait and boudoir photography based in the South of England. James is available for hire throughout the UK for all photographic services.


2 Comments

  1. Alex Wootton May 2, 2012 Reply

    An interesting read and some beautiful pictures to go with it. Enjoyed it a lot, more of the same please!

  2. Rob Dodsworth April 26, 2013 Reply

    Great post James with some stunning images to boot! Nice work!

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