In photography, there’s always a lot of talk about “good light” and “bad light.” Especially when it comes to specific subjects (like that popular rule that says the only “good light” for photographing landscapes is at sunrise or sunset).
But, as I create and look at more and more images, the more I’ve realized that these “rules” always have exceptions. There’s really no such thing as a type of light that’s always bad for a specific subject.
For example, it’s often said that the best light for photographing wildflowers is under overcast skies (I’ve even said it myself here on PN!). And, for a long time, I would only photograph wildflowers under overcast skies (or with some kind of light diffuser). But, then I started seeing all these great images of wildflowers under bright sunlight. I really liked how the bright sunlight helped “light up” the inside of the flower, so I started looking at wildflowers differently ever since then, and now I have numerous photos of wildflowers under bright sunlight (like the one above).
Another common rule of nature photography is that “good light” for landscapes only occurs around sunrise or sunset (because the light is extremely warm at that time). But, did you know that Ansel Adams shot many of his landscapes in the middle of the day? The bright midday sun may not always produce the kind of light you’re looking for, but it’s great for capturing harsh shadows between mountain ridges.
So, don’t get caught in the trap of thinking that a certain type of light is always bad for a particular subject. Instead, observe how different types of light affect the appearance of things, and use that to your advantage.
“There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.”
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About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.