Considered to be one of the most important aspects of photography, lighting can greatly affect your photographs. Understanding how to use natural light to your advantage can be very beneficial to any photographer.
Different types of natural light can help you capture the perfect mood in any situation. From shooting in the late afternoon, or using a reflector to balance out shadows, there are many ways that natural light can be used more effectively when shooting outdoors.
It is important to determine the intensity, colour, and direction of the light to capture the perfect image. The sun is at its harshest at noon and it can cast unflattering shadows and add unwanted contrast to your shot. To minimise this effect, simply find a shaded area that is just out of direct sunlight, and use the light that is diffused and reflected from the environment. To get an even lighting, you may also use a reflector to bounce and diffuse some of the light on to your subject.
You can also turn on the Active D-Lighting mode, a technology that optimises high contrast images, to retain details in the shadows and highlights. This is especially useful when you are capturing your subject under bright and harsh light.
Taking advantage of your surroundings can help add mood, colour, and interest to your shot. An example would be capturing the sunlight streaming through the leaves on a tree.
The weather can also have a drastic impact on your photo so always be aware of where the light is coming from. To work around limited or an abundance of light, try changing the camera angle or camera settings to achieve the desired effect.
But what happens when dusk or night comes about? Knowing the right settings allows you to create vibrant images even with little light from your surroundings. Controlling aperture and shutter speed are the keys. Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens; you want large apertures to let in as much light as possible. Shutter speed will control how long the shutter remains open; the longer it's open, the more the amount of light reaching the image sensor.
Also, setting higher ISO sensitivity will increase the "light gathering" ability of the camera's image sensor.
If you are using a lens equipped with VR (vibration reduction), activate its VR. But if you're using a tripod, VR can be switched off, as the tripod would already help stabilise your shot. Shutter speeds that are likely to yield the best results: 1/15, 1/8, 1/4 second or longer—and you'll need either VR or a tripod for those.
For more advanced night shots, a tripod is necessary. Long exposure times—one, ten, even 30 seconds—combined with small apertures (for wider depth-of-field) will produce dramatic light-trails and reveal details unseen to the naked eye.