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Light Makes Right -- 3 Great Tips For Taking Outdoor Photos

May 31, 2008
Light is the critical element in getting the perfect photograph. This is most true when it comes to outdoor photography, since you have almost no control of the light. Also, when you are shooting outdoors, there are many weather-related factors that can influence your photo.

What's more, in photography, it's important to be ready when the "right" shot comes along. When the special moment happens, you want to capture it and enjoy it for a lifetime. A big part of being ready is knowing enough to take advantage of whatever lighting conditions exist in a given moment.

These three tips will help you capture more moments, in a flash (and with or without a flash!). With a little trial and error (yes, expect to make some mistakes - maybe even a lot of mistakes), you'll become a better photographer and get more great photos.

Tip #1: Know your ISO. It's easy to set the ISO on most digital cameras - just check your owner's manual or play around with the settings a bit. The ISO number indicates how sensitive the image sensor is to the amount of light present. ISO settings are 200, 400, 800 and 1600 on most cameras. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive the image sensor, and the more control you exert over the lighting conditions.

So if you're sitting through double-header little league games and the light gets darker during as the day wears on, then you might want to check you ISO setting when your child gets his or her last at bat. After all, you wouldn't want to miss a big play that will be a memorable moment for the rest of your lives.

Tip #2: Know the type of light you're dealing with. There's a distinct difference between the light you see at sunrise versus the light you see at sunset. Ditto for light in the mid-morning, noon, afternoon and early evening. Your photos will look a lot different depending on the time of day you take the photo, no matter what you're subject matter. Also, the angle of the light and the shadows impact your photo a great deal.

Recently, I was photographing cottonwood trees in the late afternoon. The leaf of a cottonwood is shiny on one side and dull on the other. This made for a dramatic effect as the slowly setting sun caught the reflection of the shiny side as the wind moved through the branches of the tree.

If you're taking photos on a bright day, be on the lookout for shots that make best use of sharp shadows. You'll get a stunning effect. If it's cloudy, then make sure you find the color (flowers, green grass, etc.).

Tip #3: Know your flash. Your flash has more uses than at night or indoors. Flash is important for many outdoor photos as well. This is called "fill flash," because the flash fills in dark or shadowed areas of your subject matter. It is really useful when your subject's back is to the sun.

You should consider using fill flash when you're subject is in the shade, as a shady spot can often make a photo appear flat. A flash will bring out the highlights and give the photo more depth. Stay within your flash's range, usually about four to 10 feet. Too far away, and the flash's impact will be minimal. If you're too close, you'll wash out your subject with too much light.

Remember, light plays the biggest role in whether a photograph turns out or not. Keep these tips in mind, and you're to get a lot of really great photos you'll be proud to share.
About the Author
CJ Carroll writes for a variety of clients, including Hoorray, a photo sharing website that offers a free online photo album to new members and is the easiest place to create a digital photo album, calendar, and more.
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