Photography is the art of painting with light.

If you choose to capture outdoor photographs, you will not have the control of lighting that is possible in the studio. While this can be challenging, it is also what makes each image unique.

Your results are affected by the colour of light, the direction it comes from, how much of it there is, as well as its quality

Natural lighting is never constant, changing with the time of year and day, and affected by the weather and location. These changes affect the way the shapes, colours and overall tone of your image appear.

Some of the most dramatic light appears at opposite ends of the day, sunrise and sunset; the short time after and before are the best times for photography.

This light changes quickly, so be prepared and make your photos while it is at its most advantageous.

The apparent colour of your subjects is affected by clouds, haze and mist. Winter days will appear bluer than summer days.

As the sun moves across the sky the shape of the shadows and their direction are altered, changing how the image appears, often dramatically.

Strong, harsh light creates hard edges with dark shadows and extreme highlights; not the best situation for photography such as portraits, but great when you want strong representation of shape and form.

The harshest light on a sunny day is at mid-day and will wash out any pale colours, although it may enrich deep ones.

Some haze in the air may diffuse the sunlight and make for softer shadows but will also reduce the amount of modelling in your subject.

On a positive side, the more diffuse the sunlight is, the easier it is to produce deeply saturated colours,

Remember the old Kodak Brownie? Probably not; I expect I’m dating myself now. Back then, Kodak used to tell folks to keep the sun at your back and in the face of your subjects.

That kind of front lighting, while ensuring no sun flares in your lens, is a recipe for flat images with little detail or definition.

While your eyes may compensate and create the depth while looking at this scene, your digital camera cannot.

Use side lighting. Have the light strike your subject from an angle.

Turn your subject, or move around it to see what effect the angle of the light has on the texture, form and definition. It’s guaranteed you will find a better angle for the image you are about to create.

You may have to be patient and wait for the sun to move to the optimum angle in order to bring out the texture and detail of your subject.

Working in black and white photography is one area where bringing out this kind of detail is paramount. When you remove hue, what endures is form, texture and shape.

That being said, this applies to colour as well, as it brings one more level of information to the viewer.

Let’s look at a textured surface, such as a stone wall.

Using side lighting helps to create depth and an almost 3-D effect. The closer the light is to being parallel to the subject, the more pronounced this effect is.

All that being said, keep in mind that side lighting will also create darker shadows, so make sure your shadows are not being completely lost in the mix.

If necessary, use a reflector or some fill lighting to lighten them a bit.

Front lighting or side lighting often causes your subject to squint due to light in their eyes.

One way around this problem is back lighting.

Back lighting is when the sun, or source of light, is behind the subject and facing toward you, the photographer.

This kind of lighting can provide dramatic results when executed correctly, but may bring the problem of lens flare if rays hit the glass directly. Make sure you are using a lens hood or scrim to avoid this.

This is a good time to use a reflector or fill-flash to raise the luminance on the front of your subject as the meter in your camera will attempt to balance the exposure, causing your subject to go dark.

If you have questions, email them to [email protected] or post them after the column at

I look forward to hearing from you.

Happy shooting and remember to leave the environment as you found it.