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Shooting in Natural Light

Lesson 5 of 6

Natural Light Q & A

Dave Krugman

Shooting in Natural Light

Dave Krugman

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Lesson Info

5. Natural Light Q & A

Lesson Info

Natural Light Q & A

I will start with John Cooper. This is kind of a bigger question, I don't know if we can go to some examples, but the question was, how do you meter for the light in those situations? And he may have been talking about, for example, where there were some really contrasted, harsh light, how do you approach metering? When I'm shooting in direct light, I'm very underexposed. I'm metering for the absolute highlight. If I just let my camera take over and I went by my exposure meter, I don't know, should I jump back to one of those slides? Let's see here. Let's see. Where is this? Right, so, for example, if I metered for this bus or something like that, this is just gonna be obliterated. This is gonna be this big white patch. So what I do is, I'm probably three stops underexposed for this. Sometimes I use the exposure compensation dial, which is dialed down to like negative three. Or I'll just be shooting manual and I'll make the shutter speed really fast. It depends on what I'm doing in t...

he moment. But yeah, to achieve these deep shadows, you really have to make the center of your exposure just that on beam of light. And if you're just doing an exposure for the whole scene, you're never gonna be able to get this kind of contrast. So yeah, underexposing is really key for a scene like this. Cool. And I really love, guys I love questions. I feel like that's the best part of the conversation. So if you have anything at all about light or photography, I'd love to hear it. I have a question about shooting when you're trying to use the diffused light, how do you keep it from looking flat? That's a great question. I think that diffused light is, it's generally a flatter type of light, so that's a challenge, but I think that understanding the directionality of light is the way to avoid that. For example, if I'm standing at you here, and I don't know how much this light is hitting on me, but if I'm standing like this and you're shooting just direct diffuse light, it's gonna be a pretty flat image. You might introduce some stuff in the background or the foreground to kind of like make a more dramatic photo or something like that. But in terms of straight up light, like if I turn a little bit this way, then all of a sudden you're gonna get a gradient of light that's spilling across my face. And I can see it on you guys right now. This side of your face is a little bit less lit than this side of your face and leaning into that contrast, maybe even in post processing, like drawing out the contrast of your image, or pulling the blacks down a little bit is gonna help create a little bit more drama for you. Or even shooting backlighting, or just walk all the way around your subject and see, and just kinda try to observe what's happening with the light and what looks the best to your eye. That's it. Go ahead. Hey. Hi. I'm super interested in this concept of like, using your phone as your sketchbook. It's really inspiring. So I guess I'm kind of wondering, and then you talk about not having your camera out and just studying the light as you're walking around. This might just be a personal preference thing but do you have, is there anything that motivates you to go from just mentally exploring your surroundings and then taking out your phone? 'Cause it seems like you're kind of doing both to study. Yeah. That's a great question, uh. For my iPhone account, I kind of have like a set of constraints that I work within. And I think that constraints in creativity is another conversation I love having. Like sometimes the more we limit ourselves, the more, what's a good metaphor for this? Uh. Um. You can't really get anywhere if you don't have, like a path and a path requires edges. So, for my iPhone photography, I have like a set of rules basically. It's all iPhone, it's only shot on free apps. I just use the native camera. It's all like New York City street photography. It's kind of like this weird sense of noire. Like, I like people reading the newspaper, I like old cars, kinda like people in trench coats or walking with a cane or something like that. So, if I see a scene that's enough within my kind of rules, where I'm like, oh that's a keeper, that's when I'm pulling my phone out and actually trying to create something. Or if I'm walking by and like, oh, I really wanna remember the way that this light is working so I can think back to this moment and utilize it in my photography. That's when I'll be motivated enough to pull my phone out. But there's, between those moments of being motivated enough to actually make an image, there's an, you know, every second of every day I'm looking around and being like, oh, there's a million little micro-moments between those peaks, if that makes sense, where I'm like, oh that's interesting. Um. One of the interesting things that I learned about light lately was, I was shooting in the fog and there was these police sirens going off and the fog was really picking up all the color from the police sirens. And in the composition class I have some examples of that. But, I started to think, well, what if I shoot at a 30th of a second and we get blue and red in the same, like exposed on the same plate, and I was like, will that make purple? You know, I just tried it a few different times and I'm like, yeah, it mixed just like paint. And so, those little observations about, what if we try this and then the trial and error process. Like, that's how I'm taking those micro-moments that I'm not even shooting in and then when I'm shooting, being like, let me try that out, let me put that theory to the test. It's like a scientist saying, "Here's my hypothesis." Like you can do that without doing any science. You can have a hypothesis, and it's not until you make the thing that you actually can prove yourself right or wrong, and we learn and move on. So, yeah. I noticed a lot of your images, like the portrait work, there seems to be a lot of light on the subject, even though the primary light is backlit. Do you work with reflectors a lot? Do you carry one with you? Do you just strategically position yourself with a reflective surface behind you? And do you ever use flash fill? Um, so I really, hmm. I don't travel with a reflector. And I usually get kind of like scrappy, and like in the environment, I'm just like, oh what's over here, you know, where can we put the subject where they're well lit. I think that's just street photographer to me, just being like, I have everything I need, ya know. I think reflectors are amazing. Like, I probably should use one more. But, for specific shoots, like if I'm going out on like a job and I'm doing environmental portraiture, or there's very specific shots people want, I'm a little more prepared. But, a lot of the pictures I showed you today were just like friends and just hanging out and practicing, or just doing a shoot for fun. And I'm way more kinda just working with what I got. But, yeah, understanding the way that light reflects around the world, I think enables you to position people in ways that you'll make a more successful image. For example, like the one of the girl with her hands up and the light's coming through, but she's also really well lit. That was specifically because I knew that there's enough ambient light still around that it could compete with that backlight, if that makes sense. And also, the leeway we have now with RAW files is.

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.