Beginner’s Guide to Natural Light in Landscape Photography

Heron Egret Landscape Photography Feathers Nature Wings
Heron Egret Landscape Photography Feathers Nature Wings

Along with composition, the light quality is perhaps the most crucial factor affecting a landscape photograph’s success. While composition can be perfectly controlled, good quality light, on the other hand, cannot. However, we can control the light direction and therefore use the optimum angle of light to improve our main subject’s appearance and eventually our landscape photograph’s success. There are four main types of lighting; front, side, top, and backlighting. Consider how your envisaged scene will look like under each kind of lighting, and then choose which lighting style will best portray your shoot and subject at the specific time and within the particular position to click your subject under this light.

Natural light during the afternoon hours:

Top Lighting

Generally speaking, top lighting is to be avoided for landscape photography as it does not cast any shadows and therefore does not convey form, texture, and size, which are so essential to imitate dimension in a landscape photograph. The only exception to using top lighting is when you want to capture water at its most greenish-blue color, which occurs when the sun is placed right above.

Natural Light leading-up to sunset and a small-time after morning sunrise:


Backlighting is challenging to shoot in because of the intense brightness between the background and subject and because lens flare turns into a significant issue. If you choose to click in backlighting conditions, then it’s advised to use a lens hood to shade the lens’s top to block flare. The only exception to using backlighting in landscape photography is when you want to create a sexy silhouette of your subject which can only be achieved using backlighting.

Front Lighting

Like top lighting, front light also does not produce form, texture, and size, and even worse your own shadow will more than likely come in the scene. Try and dodge this lighting in any circumstances.

Side lighting

Side lighting is the perfect light source to reveal a subject’s form, texture, shape, and size. It casts pretty subtle shadows to present a sense of the subject’s dimension and, therefore, form a more ‘life-like picture that the viewer can happily relate to. As creating a three-dimensional image is often one of the landscape photographer’s principal goals, strive to capture your subject using side lighting.

To control the light direction, just change where you are holding a camera and click the image from a different angle!

Finally, an exciting note is that shooting during different times can produce different results under the same angle and lighting conditions. For instance, the water’s color is different depending not only on the sun’s angle but also on the month of the year. For example, trying to click turquoise water is best performed right in the midst of the day as the top light punches straight through the water. However, the same image taken simultaneously in winter compared with summer will result in the pool not becoming as turquoise because the sun does not entirely travel overhead during the smaller winter days and instead only rises up as far as 75 percent during the heart of the day.

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