Skip to main content

Shooting in Natural Light

Lesson 3 of 6

Different Types & Angles of Natural Light

Dave Krugman

Shooting in Natural Light

Dave Krugman

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

3. Different Types & Angles of Natural Light

Lesson Info

Different Types & Angles of Natural Light

To define natural light, I'd say natural light is light thats original source is the sun, even if you think about moonlight, that's reflected sunlight. Sunlight coming towards us is already altered in tons of different ways, like if it's moving through clouds or it's reflecting off something else. So that light has a really long journey before it gets to us and there's ways that it can be changed. Even here, you see like just endless possibilities of tone and color, all from one lighting source. So let's talk about types of natural light. Direct light I'd define as light that travels in a direct line from the original source, like point A to point B, that's like if your, you put your hand out and the sun is hitting it directly, I call that direct light. Reflected light I would define as light that is redirected in any form, so hitting a surface that has any degree of reflectivity. Most of the light that you see, like if you look at me, there's light reflecting off of me, that's why we'...

re able to perceive each other. So most of the light we're looking at is reflected light. Diffuse light I'd define as light that travels through another medium on its way to the subject. For example, clouds on an overcast day, a frosted window, or fabric, or curtains, or really anything. If you look around, I could also use myself as an example. If you look at me right now, you're gonna see this like really soft light coming in, maybe a little from that too. But one of the best lights to photograph in is like on an overcast day or next to a window like this because it just kind of softens the light in a really beautiful way. And then feathered light is something that I've been thinking about a lot lately, and I would define as existing on the gradient between light and shadow. And that's really been interesting to me as I think about when I position my subjects, like thinking about the hard edges of shadows, because there are hard edges, there are soft edge. How do we change the light just by moving a person in and out of that gradient? So different types of light, there's also different angles of light, and that can make a huge difference in your composition, which I'll show you guys later. Front light I would call light that falls directly onto the subject from a forward angle. Like if I'm standing like this and the light's coming in here, that's front light. Side light is again this. And back light, at the risk of stating the obvious, is light that comes from behind. And I think all these different types, again everything in photography to me is on a continuum, so there's front, there's side, there's back light, and every iteration in between. Just think about the different ways that you can combine and use those things to create beautiful imagery. And there's no limit to the newness of your ideas. If you want to combine things, you wanna do a backlit shot with a sidelit element to it, by all means. I think it's the more we experiment, the more we learn. So they all interact and affect each other. Any light that hits your sensor is reflected really because even if it goes through your lens, it's bouncing around your lens. And I just divide them into categories so we can further understand how they interact and combine. And it's been really fun actually, making this presentation, because it, you know I'm learning, as I think about it, I'm learning more and more as well. So once you start to really work with stuff like this, and then develop a fluency, you can kind of understand that even though we don't see the light in the air, light has a three dimensional kind of aspect to it. And it's really interesting. And one of the ways that we do see that sometimes, this is obviously artificial light in this scene, but when there's particulate in the air, it kind of reveals the boundaries that we don't normally get to see, and that's really interesting. I'm gonna show you, yeah so like, how do I word this? It really just, the light reflecting off the particulate in the air kind of like defines the edges of things, and it's really interesting when you kind of see that in the world, that you actually can later on, even when you don't see the light there, like when I'm walking through New York and I see a patch of light on the ground, and I realize it's reflecting off of a window, in my mind I can kind of envision in the air what the shape of that light is, and then that can inform where I place my subject. And it's been a really interesting way to think about working with light. So here you see every little bit of light is illuminated and you can really see this kind of geometric pattern that you can start to visualize in your head, in your imagination, to understand the way that light moves around the world in general. So yeah, in the natural world, this happens all the time. This was in Costa Rica. They were burning some trash or something, or a campfire, and just the light was streaming through, and I had one of those moments of like oh wow, light is like this three dimensional thing that we can move in and out of, and we can walk around it, and it's almost like a glowing sculpture we can work with. So yeah, sometimes just putting a little bit of particulate in the air can really help you understand how light moves. Yeah so putting a little smoke in the air shows that in the air in front of her are these beams of light coming through and you can see them hitting her face, but without that particulate in the air, you don't really see the three dimensional nature of the light we're working with. So I thought this was an interesting example. And I think I have another take of that, yeah. Just being able to understand like where the light's coming from and the fact that her eye is in that beam of light is a very intentional decision.

Class Description

For some photographers, capturing images with natural light is an anxiety producing process. Unlike studio lighting, nature doesn’t always cooperate, and you never know when you’ll be met with too many clouds, too much sun, or something in between. Renowned street photographer Dave Krugman will teach you how to deal with a variety of natural lighting situations so you can get optimal results no matter the weather.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Get the most out of whatever light you have.
  • Enhance available light with various techniques.
  • Deal with reflections, shadows, and hard and soft light.

If you’re more comfortable with artificial studio lighting, then this course is a great way to gain the confidence you need to create beautiful, impactful images with natural light. 


Catherine Ferraz

Great class, thankful You give us the time your advice and tips in this creative career.


Dave is low key and very articulate and brings a great understanding of the science of light to his discussion...also like his thoughts about stamping work w/intentionality of the artist.