Table of Contents
How is sunlight used in photography?
Sunlight is the light that illuminates the world. It is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, which comes from the Sun. Light can be reflected off surfaces and absorbed by objects. When light enters the eyes, it is converted into an electrical signal that travels to the brain. The brain interprets the signals received and produces a picture in our minds.
Sunlight contains many different wavelengths of energy. The visible spectrum, from red through orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet light, has a range of energies. The ultraviolet (UV) part of the spectrum is invisible to the human eye, but it is responsible for producing tanning. The infrared (IR) is the part of the spectrum that we cannot see. It has a large range of energies and is the source of heat. Infrared light is the reason that the Sun feels hot to us. All of these energies are useful in photography.
Sunlight is a very good source of light because it provides many different colors of light. It’s often very bright and there are no shadows. This makes the light appear to be uniform across the whole image. The color of the light is also consistent.
The sun moves across the sky from east to west. When the sun is high in the sky, it is close to the horizon. This makes the sunlight low in the sky. As the sun moves around, the light changes from day to day. For example, at noon, it is directly overhead and appears to be directly above the subject. At dawn and dusk, the sun is low in the sky.
In the studio, you can use many different light sources to create various types of light. Incandescent lamps such as tungsten halogen lamps provide a relatively bright light and they are easy to control. They are a very popular choice for photographers. Tungsten halogen lamps are a combination of a tungsten filament, which is heated by electricity, and a halogen gas. This gas can be changed to emit different colors of light. It can also be mixed with other gases to create a color temperature. The tungsten filament is heated and then emits light when it gets hot.
A light meter or photometer is used to measure the amount of light coming from the source. The output from the light meter is compared to a standard reading, which is set by the manufacturer of the light meter. The color temperature and power of the lamp determine the amount of light that is measured.
A reflector directs light onto the subject. It does this by reflecting light back towards the camera. There are many different kinds of reflectors. A bounce card is a piece of cardboard with a reflective coating. It allows light to bounce back off the card onto the subject. The light bounces off the surface until it hits the subject and then is reflected back to the camera.
In the studio, the light will be softer and more uniform than natural light. It will probably be more blue than the actual light. This is because the light will have been filtered through the lens of the camera.
In the field, the natural light that comes through the clouds is much brighter than the studio light. The light is softer and bluer.
How do you photograph a sun setting?
When we go for sunset shots we normally use long exposures of one second or more. The idea is to let the light fall across the scene and create a dramatic effect.
To start off, find somewhere with a clear horizon and a low sun position. You need a bit of time to wait for the sun to drop below the horizon, but you don’t want to miss the perfect moment. Make sure the sun is at least two thirds down the sky and it should be setting on the western side of the image. If there are buildings or trees nearby, shoot away.
Start with a tripod and check that your camera is properly adjusted. Once you have the exposure you want, quickly set the ISO (speed) to the lowest possible setting and turn off any mirror lockup. This will allow you to adjust the shutter speed, which is the key element in making this shot.
At first, if you adjust the shutter speed faster than 1/125th of a second, the light will be broken up and you will lose the lovely flowing quality of the light. At slower speeds, the light will be very bright and will wash out your photo. It’s a bit of trial and error, but it’s worth persevering to achieve the effect you are looking for.
If you are shooting in RAW mode, there is an auto-ISO feature that will allow you to select the correct shutter speed and ISO for you.
We also use the timer on our cameras to take the shots, but some cameras allow you to use a remote shutter release.
It’s not always possible to control the light to perfection, but it’s worth experimenting with different techniques and settings to see what works for you.
Sunlight Photography Ideas