Natural light is beautiful and can help you create some equally stunning photos–if it’s used correctly. While you can surely find items in your natural surroundings to help you create better images, it isn’t always possible or practical. But if you want to work with natural lighting and make it work the best for you, then there are three items that I’ve been using for years that I’m in love with.
Five in One Reflector
Five in one reflectors are an absolutely indispensable item that should be on the gear list of every photographer. Not only are they great for working with natural light, but they’re also awesome at working with studio strobes.
Reflectors take available light and reflect it back into certain areas to soften shadows or add color. But that’s only a couple of configurations–they can also soften direct sunlight greatly with a translucent configuration or block it out complete using a black configuration. In general, the larger the reflector the better.
Translucent White Umbrella
Translucent white umbrellas do nearly the same thing that a translucent reflector can do, but umbrellas are super portable and can be used as a fashionable accessory as well. They come in various sizes and like all light sources: the larger the source is in relation to the object the softer the light will be.
Generally, translucent white umbrellas are used to give off a large softbox like look in the studio. But the beauty of these accessories is that they can also just diffuse incoming light due to their properties. While we’ve already mentioned the translucency, umbrellas tend to send light in all directions (the pros call this a lack of directional quality). And because of this, it can technically cover a larger area than a near equivalent soft-box.
Variable ND Filter
Using one of these ND filters isn’t simple, but it will surely give you the results that you need. It’s the smallest accessory on the list and screws onto the front of your lens. So why exactly would you use this?
Let’s say you’re out in the sun with really intense light coming down on your subject. Your creative idea for the photo requires that you shoot with the lens wide open: so you set it to something like f1.4. Then you set your ISO to 100 and shutter speed to 1/4000th, and you’ll realize that you’re still over exposed.
The answer is to add another variable to the exposure equation–and that answer is a Vari-ND filter. We’ve reviewed the Digi-Pro HD from Light Craft Workshop, and to this day we really swear by their products. Even better: I tend to shoot lots of medium format film where the cameras have a max shutter speed of only 1/500th. If I want to shoot wide open with my lens, I really need to dial in the Variable ND filter.
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