How To Use Light To Enhance Your Nature Photos

Nature photography is a beautiful way to capture the beauty of the natural world.

How To Use Light To Enhance Your Nature Photos

It’s a great way to tell stories, express emotion, and create art. But often, nature photos can be hard to take due to the ever-changing weather and light conditions. 

We will be covering some tips and tricks within this article on how you can use light to enhance your nature photography.

Why Should You Use Light In Nature Photography?

Light is a key element to successful nature photography. Knowing how to control light while you’re taking photos out in the wild can make all the difference in getting that perfect shot of wildlife or a stunning landscape image. 

By understanding and controlling light, photographs are elevated to a different level entirely; with the right lighting, shapes, lines, textures, and colors become more defined, adding their own unique style and character to any photo.

  • Controlling light in nature photography requires an awareness of your surroundings. 
  • Take note of where the sun should be positioned during certain times of day and if possible, take multiple shots at different angles or exposure settings. 
  • This will help create different shades and hues depending on what type of scene you wish to capture. 
  • Paying attention to how shadows fall across your subjects can also help bring out specific textures or details that would otherwise be lost or overlooked in plain daylight. 

What Is The Purpose Of Using Natural Light In Nature Photography?

Natural light is essential for capturing the perfect shot in any type of photography, especially when it comes to nature photography. 

By understanding how to harness the power of natural light, you can utilize it to create stunning images that capture the beauty of your surroundings and create a powerful emotional impact.

  • The most important aspect of natural lighting for nature photographers is understanding when to take advantage of it. 
  • Light is very different depending on the hour of the day and if it’s summer or winter. 
  • You also need to account for the point of view from which you are shooting, as this may change the way the light renders in a scene. 

For instance, sunrise and sunset, when the sun is low in the sky, this is ideal as there will be strong contrasts with options of low-angle lighting which add an evocative moodiness to your photos. 

The shadows created in these conditions can really add depth and relief to photographic elements, increasing their visual appeal. 

Knowing when to take advantage of natural light during its best times can be key for capturing amazing shots full off atmosphere and emotion.

How To Enhance Your Nature Photos Using Natural Light

Landscape photography lighting is something every photographer should be aware of when taking pictures. Natural light provides the perfect source for vibrant and detailed images that will capture the essence of the landscape. 

Sunlight plays a large role in landscape photography, and shooting during sunrise or sunset is often recommended for optimal results. However, there are many more types of natural light that can create stunning photographs if used correctly.

Use Natural Light

Natural light is often the best choice when it comes to taking nature photos. It can provide a softer, more natural look than artificial lighting, which can be too harsh and unnatural for outdoor scenes. 

Plus, natural light is free, so you won’t have to worry about buying expensive lighting equipment.

Learn the Direction of Light

Knowing the direction of light is essential for making your photos look their best. Generally, the best light comes from behind the photographer or off to one side. 

This will give your photos a nice directional quality that is pleasing to the eye.

Using Sunrise Light

When making a visual project like photography or film-making, the quality of light is paramount. 

Sunrise and sunset have similar qualities which can make it difficult to decide on one over another. However, there are some key benefits to choosing sunrise light over sunset light.

One of the main reasons to pick sunrise light over sunset light is due to the direction of the light source. 

During the morning, the sun will rise in the East, meaning that part of your scene will be more illuminated and eye-catching, giving you better results in your project as opposed to using sunset lighting. 

Also, sunrise lighting tends to be clearer than its counterpart, which allows for much more clarity and detail in your visuals. 

What Are The Different Natural Lights You Can Use To Enhance Your Nature Photographs?

How To Use Light To Enhance Your Nature Photos (1)

Golden Hour

Side lighting during the golden hour is an ideal choice for landscape photography.

Not only does it reveal textures and structures, paint contrast and volume, and bring out beautiful colors, but it also creates interesting shadow patterns that make compositions more dynamic. 

The transformation of red to yellow to shades of orange creates a warm atmosphere that pairs perfectly with landscapes while giving them a bit of drama.

This warm light can be used to your advantage in many ways since small shifts can make all the difference when photographing a scene during the golden hour. 

  • Textures will stand out more, colors may look muted or brighter depending on your positioning and perspective, and deep shadows will add depth to your images. 
  • Exploring different angles can lead to new discoveries in portraits as well; silhouette shots create bold statements when illuminated by this type of light. 


This type of natural light is a great type for landscape photographers to make creative and captivating photos (see also “How To Use Light To Enhance Your Landscape Photos“). 

It occurs when there is pre-sunrise or post-sunset darkness, which creates a gentle, diffused light that has neither harsh shadows nor bright colors. 

This soft light helps bring out the textures and details in the scene, producing stunningly beautiful photos with plenty of contrast and color.

Of course, since this kind of light doesn’t last long, photographers need to arrive an hour before sunrise to ensure they catch these enchanting lights. 

Furthermore, even when the sky remains quite bright at that time, photographers still need additional filters or bracketing techniques in order to get accurate exposure settings for the photo. 


This type of light is a beautiful source of light for night photography. Although it is dimmer than sunlight, it still has the same qualities which can be used to create stunning photos. 

Moonlight casts long shadows and produces a soft warm glow in the sky which creates interesting silhouettes and highlights textures in nature.

Photographers should shoot around the moonrise to take advantage of the reddish hues coming out of the horizon during these times. 

  • A great way to use this dime light is to take long exposures as the intensity of light stays consistent over time – something that’s difficult with direct sunlight. 
  • Additionally, it’s also best to avoid photographing when a full moon appears, as its brightness can easily be overexposed in photos if not managed correctly, or worse – if you can’t capture stars because of its power.

How Can You Use Your Camera To Take Nature Photos In Natural Lighting?

First and foremost, cameras have three main modes for measuring natural light – manual, shutter priority, and aperture priority. 

Manual mode is the most basic of the three, where the photographer sets both the shutter speed and aperture manually to achieve accurate exposures. 

  • For experienced photographers, this offers more control over their images by allowing them to set these values based on individual needs for a particular shot. However, for a beginner or someone with less photography experience, manual mode may be daunting due to its somewhat complicated settings.

Shutter priority is another way that cameras measure natural light. 

  • This mode allows photographers to choose how long the shutter stays open when taking a photo; this acts as a method of controlling exposure since longer shutter speeds result in darker images while faster shutter speeds will tend to make your photos brighter. 

Finally, aperture priority is also used to gauge natural light by setting the lens opening – or aperture – to determine which elements of the scene appear in focus or out of focus. 

  • It also affects exposure by controlling how much light enters through the lens and onto your camera’s sensor. 

While other modes may appear differently on different cameras, they are ultimately just variations of these three basic modes for adjusting exposure when capturing light.

Final Thoughts

By taking the time to understand light and its effects on nature photography, you can create stunning pictures that capture the beauty of nature. 

Whether shooting during the day or night, using natural lighting can dramatically enhance your photos (see also: How To Use Light To Enhance Your Object Photos?)and provide you with an opportunity to explore the world in a new way. 

Understanding how camera settings affect exposure is essential for achieving these results, so be sure to experiment with different modes until you find the one that works best for your individual needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Challenges May You Find Taking Photographs In Natural Light?

When shooting outdoors, it is essential to take into account the environment you are in. This means respecting the surrounding environment and leaving the location as pristine as when you found it. 

Always make sure that you have acquired all required permits for filming or photography if necessary, and try to stay on established trails whenever possible.

Laura McNeill
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