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3 Ways To Manipulate and Control Natural Light

Are you learning how to control light? These easy tips will make it a breeze!

Learning the intricacies of how to manipulate and control light can be one of the hardest aspects of photography. However, if you start your journey of learning light by beginning with natural light, it doesn’t have to be that hard. In today’s post, you will find three easy to implement tips to help you control natural light to create the images you desire. 

lighting diagram


1) Reflect the Light

Reflecting light from the sun is one of the most popular ways to manipulate light. In the above diagram, consider the sun is behind your subject which means their face is probably covered in shadow. You want to fill in the shadow on their face by using either a reflector, v-flat OR a simple and cheap piece of white foam board. In order to fill in the shadow, you want to place the card opposite your light source (the sun) in order to bounce or reflect it back up onto your subject. 

manipulate natural light

2) Create Shadows

This method is exactly the same and opposite of our first tip. In our first method of controlling light, we are reflecting light with a white foam board to fill in the shadows. 

 Depending on what look or style you are trying to create, you will sometimes want more shadows to add more dimension. Other times, you might need to fill in an unsavory highlight. Grabbing a black piece of foam board and placing it next to your subject will absorb the light, creating shadow and filling in highlights. 

manipulate natural light

3) Move Your Subject

The quickest and cheapest way to control natural light is to simply move your subject. For real, it is that easy. 

For example, if you subject is facing the sun, they are probably squinting and the probably have some awful highlights hitting their face. The light is probably pretty harsh with hard shadows. Instead, just shift your subject so their back is too the sun. If you look at the photo above, I had the couple sit with their backs to the sun. This way, we got some nice sun flare in the back with no harsh shadows on their face or eye squinting. 


I a promise you that natural light is super easy to work with and learn. It should be the first light source that you learn to control before any you start to play with any artificial light.  When working with light, pay attention how the light changes when you bounce either with white or black foam board. Where are there highlights? Where are there shadows? Do these highlights or shadows change when I bounce light?

These simple tips for controlling natural light will help you take your photography to the next level. I highly suggest grabbing a friend to model for you, some white and black foam board (found at your local craft store) and get out there to try these methods.  Because we all know that practice makes perfect!

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