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How to Use Natural Light in Your DSLR Film

Nobody argues that natural light is the best source of light for your DSLR film because sunlight is bright, diverse, and complimentary. Not only does it flatter the subject with illumination, but it’s also free. No electric bill or any maintenance required. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a slight price to pay.

Because it’s a passive light form, you have no control over it. You have to accept its direction, the shadows it creates, and its quality. That’s a fair price to pay when you consider what you get in return.

One day, the light renders warmly against a rich blue sky, and the next day it’s completely different. Maybe it's slightly cooler, or that the background sky is paler than the day before. The same goes for cloud cover. That’s because the sun is always in the sky, but that stuff in between (also known as clouds and haze) can affect what it does on a predictable basis.

Consider the following:

  • Try to use sunlight from a lower angle. This creates the most flattering illumination, and it’s generally warmer too.

  • Avoid overhead light. When the sun is beating straight down on the subject, it’s not flattering and creates harsh shadows.

  • Take advantage of an overcast day. Direct sunlight is sometimes harsh on the subject because it creates shadow and texture. Enter the clouds: By acting as giant diffusers, they present the subject in a more flattering illumination. (Just watch out for white patches of sky.)

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