Hello and welcome to lesson two. Today we are going to look at Natural Light and Composition. Both these things are so very important to me as a photographer and I believe if you spend time learning about using natural light and practising your composition skills you will be able to take great images with whatever camera you have. 

If you have taken my Taster Course or one of my other courses you will have heard me talk about Natural Light and Composition before. I would encourage you to still take today's lesson. I have been taking images for over 30 years and I am still improving what I do with light and composition! 

Let's begin with the video: 

Natural Light

The first thing I want you to do today is turn off your flash on your camera and your phone. For the rest of this course we are going to be shooting in natural light. 

The next thing you need to do is begin to find your happy spots for photography in your own homes, workplaces etc. To find a happy spot you need to start with a window and turn off any lights in the room and in the hallway. Tables close to windows and mantelpieces in rooms with big windows are great but you can also set up a space on the floor near a window. 

If you are photographing top down (for a flat lay style image) then you can position your things in front of the window but for anything else you should have the window to the side of you, so the light is coming across your subjects. 

As the light is only coming in from one side then you might find you get dark shadows appearing. If this happens then you can use a reflector or a white piece of card to bounce the light back onto your subject. 

In addition to finding your happy spots near windows you also need to become aware of how the light changes throughout the day and throughout the year. Taking a photograph at 8am in August is very different to taking a photograph at 8am in December for example. 

It may sound really obvious to talk about light changing as the day or year goes by. Of course it does! But this is really important to remember when you are taking photographs. Once you become tuned into finding the light for your photography you will begin to notice it all the time, and when you see happy light it will really make you smile and want to grab your camera and start shooting! 

Today and over the week I want you to notice how the light changes in different rooms in your homes throughout the day. As you get to know the light in your home you will really get to know which windows are going to work the best for you. Or you might have a favourite morning window and a favourite afternoon window. I also want you to notice the light when you are outside. Just begin to be a lot more aware of the light around you as this will help so much when you are looking for good light for your images, whether you are indoors or outdoors. 

Of course it isn't just the time of day or time of year that is important to think about but also the weather. On a bright Summer's day you will probably find the light is too harsh near your window and you might want to hang a muslin sheet up to diffuse the light coming in through the window. 

Taking photographs outside can often be as challenging as taking them indoors. If you take images when the sun is too high in the sky they can be all blown out. The colours that you see will be lost. The shadows will be too strong. 

Or you try taking images on one of those sunshine with clouds days and every time you take an image you need a different setting. 

But then you can have moments outside that are just wow! When the light just makes you smile and feel alive. Learning to capture those moments with your camera (and especially that trusty smartphone in your pocket) helps to preserve theses special times. 

Start taking images in the best light you can find. Enjoy the difference it makes! 

Composition

Now that you have started thinking about the light that you take your photographs in, the next important step is to really think about your composition. 

When you compose an image it is really important to start by thinking about why you are taking the photograph.

  • What are you trying to say?
  • What is the subject?
  • What is the story?

This doesn't have to be deep and meaningful, it can be as simple as "blue sky", "Autumn leaves", "pretty pink things!" But you do need to start somewhere.

Is the subject of your photograph one thing or is everything in the image important? For example you might be taking a photograph of a vase of flowers on a table or a flat lay of all the new products you have in your shop.

In the first example the vase of flowers is the subject but there might be other things in the photograph that are not as important. In the second example everything is probably important, so your subject is the whole image. 

BACKGROUND 

I think it's really important to start by thinking about your background. Images can go so wrong if the background isn't right. Backgrounds make a difference whether you are photographing a flat lay indoors or a portrait outdoors. Every image has a background. So spend time thinking about them. 

I have an ever growing collection of backgrounds to use for my Instagram images. Wrapping paper, old wood (new wood just doesn't have the same feel), painted wooden boards, big pieces of card in different colours, fabric (I particularly love linen because of its brilliant texture), a small piece of marble and even old baking trays all make wonderful backgrounds. I bet you have lots at home that you haven't even thought of using. Take a look around and see what you can find! 

Try taking the same image of different backgrounds, so that you can really see what a difference the background can make. 

When I am out and about I like to spot backgrounds for taking portraits of my children. Old doors, pretty trees, interesting walls, colourful fences...all make great backgrounds for portraits. Are there any local ones to you that you can think of? 

COLOURS

Colours also make up an important part of composition. Really think about the colours you are putting together. Do they go together? Are any of the colours sticking out and ruining the balance of the image? Would an additional colour help lift your image? 

Unless you want to give the impression of a rainbow of colours it is usually best to stick to no more than 3 colours. You can of course use different tones and shades of theses colours. 

If you need help knowing what colours go together you can use a colour wheel

 

RULE OF THIRDS

On your smartphones you can turn on a grid on your camera. This grid helps us with the rule of thirds. If you haven't, turn the grid on as it will really help you to frame your images and place your subject is a good place. 

On an iPhone you do this in the settings. Android phones usually have a grid setting on the camera itself. Please ask me in the group if you get stuck.

The grid enables you to think of your image in thirds. By placing your subject in one of the thirds you create a balanced image that makes our eyes happy! It also helps you to create images that are a bit more interesting. By placing your subject to one side, for example. 

Find a simple subject, something you have made would be perfect, and take some different images of it, really thinking about where you position it in the grid. If you want to share some in our Facebook Group that would be lovely! Have a think about which ones you like best. Do some make you feel differently? Can you create a feeling simply from where you place your subject in the frame? 

I know there are a lot of things to practise today. I hope it doesn't leave you feeling overwhelmed but rather it leaves you inspired with a big list of things you want to try! 

If you share any images that you'd like me to see on Instagram please tag them #makelightmakers. We are going to create a beautiful gallery like this one, so it will be lovely if you do post some. And of course keep asking questions and posting images in the Facebook Group.