Different times of the day offer different perspectives to outdoor photography, but first we need to understand how daylight plays its part. To begin with, check the exact time of sunrise and sunset and be there well before that time to get your shots. Photographing when the sun is right over your head is a bad idea because the lighting is simply not right. If it is a cloudy day then make use of it. Clouds determine the intensity of light we get. The overhead sun gives the worst sort of lighting for outdoor photography. Overcome this problem if you have no other choice by making use of open shades and not partially shaded zones as they won’t give good pictures. Change the camera settings to shade. Use the fill flash setting if your camera has it. This will balance out the subject and the brightness. But even before all that, follow these guidelines…
1.The Sunny f-16 rule.
Manual exposure on a sunny day simply means that you must use the Sunny f-16 rule. Set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to ISO in midday sunlight and if you are shooting at ISO 200, set the aperture to f/16 at 1/200. This works when you are shooting on a bright, nearly cloudless day and the subject is front-lit.
2.Play around with shadows
Shoot into the sun instead of always having the sun behind you or to your side. Try getting silhouettes by shooting with the sun in your arena and get shadow shots too. Use the sun in your frame every once in a while.
Sometimes you use the light from the sky whereas at other times you require a source. Make sure that the light source is many times larger than the subject. Gauge the quality of light you get from a source by comparing the photograph you get by using it to another one taken at dusk.
4.Shots at twilight
Once the sun sets, you cannot have bright photographs so you cannot click normal pictures. Use of a tripod and long exposures become really handy. Use a tripod and a 30 second exposure to shoot a highway in the evening and you will get an image in which the highway lights and car headlights appear as long colorful patterns. You can get these shots only by trial and error because light meters cannot determine the exact exposure required. A digital camera is useful here as it will immediately tell you if you got the shot right or not. This is decided by the amount of time the shutter is open (5 to 60 seconds) in combination with the correct f/stop.
5.Don’t let the overcast day bog you down
Overcast days might be really dull, but even this light is of very high and productive quality. On such a day, the light meter will read the light in the sky and it underexposes the object. Use this light constructively in your photo by keeping the sky out of your frame of view. Light on an overcast day is the best light for portrait photography as it is very soft and diffused. You cannot sit down and wait for an overcast day so you can get this sort of natural soft light setting by shooting the pictures early in the mornings or at dusk when the light is similar. For an indoor photo, light the scene so that you don’t need a flash. Use lamps or sunlight entering through an open window and keep the shadows away. If the weather doesn’t seem right then use the on-camera flash which is different from the in-built flash in that this is mounted on top of the camera. What is even better is a movable flash that can be used separately using a dedicated cord. Bounce this external flash at an angle of 60 degrees and you can get the same diffused light and keep the shadows at bay.
6.Direct the viewer yourself.
Light up the most important part of the photograph that’s meant to grab the viewer’s attention. The eyes of the viewer will automatically go towards whatever looks brightest in the photo. Decide that object yourself!
A setting sun gives you amazing background. Use this time to get the evening shots by making sure that the subjects (in this case, ships) are present already and everything is arranged. The colors of sunset last for only a few minutes, so be there at a location where you have a good view of the horizon and place your subject directly in line with the color of the horizon. The light from the flash output must match with that from the sun. Again, have a tripod and a digital camera with a post-view screen. Select an f/stop and adjust the flash output for your subject while using the shutter speed for the right exposure. This technique can again be mastered only by practice.
~Zahid H Javali