Skip to main content

Masters of Photography

Lesson 22 of 54

Controlling natural light

Albert Watson

Masters of Photography

Albert Watson

Starting under


Get access to this class +2000 more taught by the world's top experts

  • 24/7 access via desktop, mobile, or TV
  • New classes added every month
  • Download lessons for offline viewing
  • Exclusive content for subscribers

Lesson Info

22. Controlling natural light
Discover Albert's tips on how to make the most of natural light and how Albert controls it in his images.


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
1 Meet your Master Duration:01:26
2 Learn from the journey Duration:15:24
3 Using inspirations Duration:08:43
4 Photography is stopping time Duration:09:27
5 Albert's library of ideas Duration:08:30
7 Setting up the studio Duration:04:56
10 Foreground studio set up Duration:08:46
14 Picking the best shot Duration:03:36
15 Working with photoshop Duration:13:14
18 One day with Kate Moss Duration:05:06
19 Learn to have your ideas ready Duration:06:14
20 Using Polariods Duration:06:29
22 Controlling natural light Duration:05:38
23 Shooting a monkey with a gun Duration:06:27
24 Choosing your format Duration:07:13
25 Composition and lens Duration:04:47
28 Creating still life images Duration:13:48
29 Photographing the Lost Diary Duration:10:53
30 Shooting album covers Duration:03:09
31 The Strip Search Project Duration:10:28
32 Shooting Las Vegas landscapes Duration:08:24
33 Photographing Breaunna Duration:07:21
35 Creating the Maroc Project Duration:10:21
36 Creating the Maroc shoot Duration:08:11
37 Photographing sand dunes Duration:04:09
39 Advice on making portraits Duration:10:12
44 Photographing Jack Nicholson Duration:04:21
47 Studio fashion set up 4 Duration:10:48
49 Look inside the picture Duration:02:57
51 Combining nudes and landscapes Duration:04:52
52 A perfect print Duration:07:51
53 The business side of things Duration:06:51
54 Conclusion and farewell Duration:03:55

Lesson Info

Controlling natural light

(calm music) I have a great love of strobes and tungsten light and HMI lights. I have a great love of them. But just every so often I just have a mad kind of love affair with natural light. And I really began to reconsider that, because I did a lot of my early work with natural light. But I'd really began to reconsider that really in the end of the eighties. And I really began to try and see how I could work it it. Sometimes it's possible, there's a well-known nude of Kate Moss that's completely, 100% natural light. And how could I work with it, how could I possibly shape it slightly sometimes, how could I cancel some of the effects of natural lights, how could I increase natural light, how could I manage to work with it? Or in fact, sometimes not work with it at all, just go ahead and shoot what was right in front of me. But as for the Kate Moss shot, for example, of course it's a matter of knowing that you're gonna do that shot, but absolutely thinking about the time of day you're ...

gonna do it. And to pretty much know that you want the light not to be sitting right on the horizon line if you're using sun, but, so as it gets too chalky, the light, but you sometimes can shoot the light as it, if the sun is setting at six, you might want to start your shot at five, 5:15, 5:20, 5:30, and so you work with the light as it changes and alters. But once again, it's an awareness of what's going on and thinking about what's going on and thinking about what the light is doing and really looking. (calm music) There's a strange thing with photographers sometimes. They become obsessed by the camera and what they're photographing and not really thinking about what's really going on sometimes with the light. I think it's because their concentration means they start speaking to the subject, they get distracted by the photograph without really looking what's going on light wise. So in the end, of course when you work with natural light, natural light changes, it moves, a lot of times you have clouds coming over, you have sun, you sometimes get very lucky, it's a cloudy day, it's flat light. But you can increase that with reflectors. So natural light definitely has it's own beauty and I'm lucky because I never really settled down and said okay, I'm a tungsten guy or I'm an HMI or a strobe or I'm a natural light guy or I'm mixed lights, I mix strobe with natural, whatever. I tried to say well I know how to do all of that stuff and therefore it means that I have a slightly bigger bag of tricks to pull from. But natural light is certainly a major, a major player in all of that because there is a great beauty sometimes to just using the sun. (calm music) I'm always traveling wherever possible, wherever possible, with a minimum of four eight-by-four boards, black on one side, white on the other. And I find those just invaluable because that way you can create shadows with them, you can block light with them, you can, if you have four possibilities, if you think about an eight foot by four foot board, that's 32 square feet and if you have four of them you can do the math on that and that's 128 square feet of light that you can put in front of the subject to bounce light up into the subject. Or if there's a white cement ground that you don't want all of that light bouncing up, then you can flip the boards and do black. So four, eight-by-four boards if you've got the vehicle to carry them or you can strap them on top of their car, is really fantastic. I can do whole shoots with just these boards. Now of course, you don't need eight feet by four feet. You can maybe get away with four feet by four feet, but I do love these big boards because they're handy. (calm music)

Class Description


  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs
  • Albert’s tips and tricks on landscape, fashion, portraiture and still life photography.
  • Simple lighting techniques using natural light and studio light
  • Simple tips on preparing for portrait shoots
  • How to create incredible portraits using just two $10 bulbs


Learn how Albert creates his amazing photographs on location and in the studio using simple explanations.

Albert reveals his shoot secrets on how he photographs Presidents, Hollywood stars, music’s greatest artists, landscapes, nudes, chimpanzees and still life. We follow him on location in Morocco, Paris and in his studio in New York. You will find out where he suggests you look to get inspiration, how to approach a portrait session, see how to light like Albert.

We show you exactly how Albert works on these images after the shoot, it’s all about Albert giving you his ideas and advice and helping you see and create better images for yourself.

It’s not about what camera to use, it’s about how to see and develop ideas, concepts and narrative to make stunning photographs.

As Albert says..."You have to stay switched on"


Richard A. Heckler

"Unless you're Mozart"...this course is an invaluable asset. I'm a pro, humanitarian/documentary photographer, & wilderness...and I've learned much from the 40+ sessions here. This is truly a Master best thing to being with Albert. And although I could watch studio sessions forever, this course offered a very balanced curriculum of technical information, artistic encouragement and guidance, and a open, generous window into the thinking of a gifted artist and photographer, sifted from decades of first class experience. Kudos to all involved. Excellent!

a Creativelive Student

I purchased my first CreativeLive class in 2011 and have continued to purchase many classes over the years. I have learned so much from the many great instructors. This one is not a technical class that will tell you to set your camera at f4, 1/60, ISO 400 and you can get this shot. If you are looking for that, there are many other options. If you have a solid working knowledge of photography, this class is so much more. The way it was filmed is like you are there with him in conversation or in the room with him watching him shoot. To see and understand the how and why he does what he does. Not to take anything away from other classes that have helped to give me a strong understanding of photography, this is my favorite CreativeLive class so far.