Understanding Ambient Light

Ambient light is a term you will often hear a lot if you are surrounded with photographers or photography savvy folks. You will hear them use it often but might not quite the what the term entails. Some see the ambient light as the photography niche term for natural light and it can come from various sources. It is the light that is not setup, the type that is just present in a scene, it could be the light at a stadium or the light from the sun. It can be the light on a sunny day, the rays of the sunshine that passes through trees branches, the light in the home, the illumination of a city at night or the light in a concert hall, it is simply any light that exists in a photoshoot location.

In some pictures taken, there are more than one source of the ambient light, for instance a picture whereby a man is staring at a computer screen whose only source of light is a lamp facing the man, the sources of the light here are the lamp and the computer screen and they combine as the sources of the natural light in the room.

Shooting in natural lighting poses its own benefits, the most obvious is that it requires no fixing of extra or special light, which reduces the stress on the job. Other benefits of ambient light include:

  • Shooting can be done anywhere as there is natural light everywhere and this aids instant creativity. A photographer can decide to take a great picture just strolling through the street of a city.
  • It is free, you do not need to pay for it unlike special lighting, where you buy the equipment and might even pay for the setup. If you are looking forward to pursuing a career in photography, ambient light provides a platform.
  • The scene took in uncontrolled or natural lighting condition gives a sense of realness.

While ambient light has its good sides, one seemingly bad side to it is that it is not in your control and anything can happen while shooting. A photoshoot that is done to model certain wears, if done under natural conditions for example under direct sunlight can be disturbed if it starts to rain or if the weather changes. This unpredictability associated with ambient lights is why it is not used for professional shoots.

One of the best scene provided by ambient light is the scene caused by sunset, the rich golden color hue it gives is one that produces great photographs.

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