How to Shoot a Landscape at Any Time of Day: Different Qualities of Light

If you’re not sure how to photograph a landscape, one primary factor you should consider is the current position of the sun in the sky. Here’s a fantastic 3.5-minute video by CreativeLive in which National Geographic photographer Frans Lanting shares tips on harnessing different kinds of sunlight.

“The essential ingredient in any photograph is light,” Lanting says. “There’s different kinds of light to be aware of.”

Here are the different types of natural light Lanting discusses:

  • Indirect light: For example, when the scene is illuminated through fog or during “magic light,” immediately before or after sunrise and sunset, respectively.
  • Front light: When the sun is behind you, the photographer, the light helps to emphasize the colors in a scene.
  • Side (or cross) light: When the sun is at a 90-degree angle to the side, it helps to reveal the textures in a scene.
  • Back light: When the sun is shining directly at you from within the scene, it helps to simplify the scene, create silhouettes, and emphasize shapes.

Lanting often steps through these different types of lighting as the sun makes its way across the sky over the course of a day, allowing the sun’s position to dictate how he chooses to capture the landscape.

There’s also a full course taught by Lanting at CreativeLive called “The Art of Seeing.”