Use Natural Light in Dog Photography - dummies

Use Natural Light in Dog Photography

By Kim Rodgers, Sarah Sypniewski

Light takes on many different forms in its natural state, from extremely bright midday sun to the soft rays of dawn and everything in between. In dog photography, natural outdoor light is your best friend. That is, if you know how to catch it at its best.

Natural light comes from the sun, that giant light bulb in the sky. It’s constantly changing and adjusting throughout the day and seasons. Unfortunately, not all natural light is created equally. For example, the light at noon on a clear day is distinctly different from the sunset on that same day.

The color temperature of light shifts, depending on the season. And the amount of natural light present on a cloudy or hazy day changes drastically.

Here are a few rules to live by when making use of natural light:

  • First and foremost, stay away from midday sun. It shines down from directly overhead, creating harsh shadows and overly bright highlights. If you must shoot at high noon, scout out an area that’s well-shaded so you can work with a more dispersed and less direct light source.

  • Whenever possible, shoot during early morning or late afternoon, right around when the sun is rising or setting. Photographers dub these special times “the golden hour” because of the warm hues that bathe their subject. Because the sun also hangs lower in the sky at these times, you won’t suffer from overly strong shadows and highlights.


    24mm, 1/400 sec., f/9.0, 250

    This image was taken at sunset and shows Dino soaking up the last golden rays of the day.

  • Don’t write off a cloudy day! Thinking that you can’t get good photos on a cloudy or overcast day is a misconception. In fact, this is sometimes the best kind of light you could hope for, especially if you’re photographing a black dog.

    Clouds can act as a giant softbox that filters the sun to an even and dispersed state, so take advantage of those clouds and forget about the earlier high-noon rule if it’s a cloudy day.

  • Don’t feel stuck with what nature has provided. Invest in some natural light modifiers to gain some control over the direction and intensity of your light. Natural light modifiers include everything from portable reflectors that conveniently fold up into a small pouch to a simple white piece of foam core from your local art supply store.

    Use these devices to bounce (and conveniently redirect) the sun’s light waves. They take some practice in positioning because the light needs to hit them at just the right angle, but they can really be a lifesaver if you’re looking for a little extra light on a cloudy day!

    They’re also great for softening those harsh midday shadows if you find yourself in a position with no other choice but to shoot then.