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Natural Light Photography Tips

Reflector tips and advice from Damian McGillicuddy.

| Portraits and People
Natural Light Photography Tips: ReflectorNatural light is all around us but that doesn’t just mean we can shoot 'willy nilly' does it? Of course not! Photography is about control and to exercise control we need a plan.

If I’m shooting with natural light I’ll always look for window light. Why? Very simply, because it gives me control, especially if the window is dressed. Curtains can be used as barn doors or flags to control the 'spill' of the light. Add a net or voile to the window and we now have diffusion to soften the light and lower the contrast if necessary...who needs a studio!

Now, before you pick up your Olympus camera, meter for the light, pointing the meter back to the source of the illumination. Why? Well it's because we want to know just how much illumination is falling on the subject, so measure the raw material from where it's coming from.

Sometimes, but only sometimes, that might just be all you need and your picture may be perfect but images like that are few and very far between. So, what do I do if I'm not happy with the contrast the light is giving me? Well before I unpack the lights the first port of call for me is always a reflector. By bouncing the window light back via a reflector you can make a great deal of difference to the feel of an image. 

Reflectors come in many shapes, sizes and colours. Predominantly though they are white, silver or gold. A black panel or negative reflector become useful when you wan to increase contrast, perhaps for a black and white study.

Remember, when using a reflector, the angle of incidence always equals the angle of reflection, in other words the way it comes into the reflector will be the same angle it bounces out on. Rather like the way a snooker ball bounces off the table cushion.

When using a reflector don’t hold it too low as if the light appears to be coming from below, it will weaken the image and make it look slightly strange. Us humans are 'hard wired' to expect our illumination to come from above, that's what thousands of years of living in sunlight does for us, we are all familiar with that big ball in the sky.

Secondly, you can get a similar look on a budget by pressing into service polystyrene boards with one side painted black or a large board covered in tin foil.

The REAL secret is to PRACTICE and hopefully I will have inspired you to get up, get out and give it a go.

For more photography tips and to see how the 'Big Dog' shoots his portraits live, sign up for an Olympus Event

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