What is Natural Light?

Natural light is the illumination provided by the Sun. It is the light emitted by the Sun and reaches the Earth without any artificial sources or modifications. In photography, natural light refers to using available daylight, without any artificial sources or changes. It encompasses the varying qualities of light throughout the day, including its direction, softness, and color temperature.

This can create a soft, flattering, and natural-looking illumination that enhances the appearance of the subject. Photographers often consider the angle and time of day to achieve desired lighting conditions. And they may use reflectors, diffusers, or other tools to manipulate the natural light for optimal results.

What Setting Should Natural Light be Used for Photography?

Natural light can be used for photography in various settings, depending on the desired outcome and the specific conditions. Here are a few common scenarios where natural light is often utilized:

Outdoor Portraits

Natural light can be excellent for outdoor portrait photography. The soft, diffused light during the golden hour (shortly after sunrise or before sunset) creates a warm, flattering glow on the subject’s face. The softer shadows and warm tones can enhance the mood and bring out the natural beauty of the subject.

Landscape Photography

Natural light is often a crucial element in landscape photography. Different times of the day produce varying lighting conditions, which can greatly influence the atmosphere and mood of the landscape. Photographers may choose to shoot during the golden hour or capture the dramatic lighting during sunrise or sunset for stunning landscape shots.

Street Photography

When capturing candid moments in street photography, natural light can provide an authentic and documentary feel to the images. The available light in urban environments can be used creatively to highlight subjects. It can also capture interesting shadows, and play with contrasts.

Macro Photography

Natural light is beneficial for macro photography, where the subject is small and requires careful lighting. Utilizing natural light can create a soft, gentle illumination of the intricate details of the subject without overpowering it. Shooting close to a window or in shaded outdoor areas can provide diffused natural light for macro shots.

You may also read: Macro Photography Gears, Accessories, Equipments, and Essentials

Indoor Photography

While artificial lighting is commonly used for indoor photography, natural light can still play a role in certain situations. Large windows or doors can serve as valuable light sources, especially when shooting in well-lit rooms or spaces with abundant natural light. It can add a sense of depth and a more natural look to indoor images.

What is the best aperture for natural light?

The best aperture for natural light photography depends on various factors, including the lighting conditions, desired depth of field, and the lens being used. Here are a few considerations when choosing the aperture for natural light photography:

Lighting Conditions

The intensity and quality of natural light can vary throughout the day and in different weather conditions. If you’re shooting during the golden hour or in soft, diffused light, using a wider aperture (lower f-number) can help create a shallow depth of field and a pleasing background blur.

On the other hand, in bright, harsh light, stopping down the aperture (higher f-number) can help control the amount of light entering the lens and avoid overexposure.

Depth of Field

The aperture setting directly affects the depth of field, which determines how much of the image appears in focus. A wider aperture (smaller f-number) such as f/1.8 or f/2.8 will create a shallow depth of field. It results in a sharp subject against a blurred background.

This can be ideal for portraits or when you want to isolate the subject from the surroundings. If you want more of the scene to be in focus, a narrower aperture (larger f-number) such as f/8 or f/11 can be used.

Lens Characteristics

Different lenses have varying maximum and optimal apertures. Some lenses perform best when stopped down a bit from their widest aperture, while others may produce optimal sharpness and image quality at their widest aperture.

It’s worth understanding the specific characteristics and limitations of your lens to determine the ideal aperture range for natural light photography.


The aperture setting is one of the factors that contribute to the overall exposure of an image, along with the ISO and shutter speed. Balancing the aperture with the other exposure settings is crucial to achieving a properly exposed photograph.

In natural light photography, you may need to adjust the aperture to achieve the desired exposure while considering the available light conditions.

Examples of Natural Light Photographs