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Fundamentals of Photography

Lesson 65 of 107

Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight

John Greengo

Fundamentals of Photography

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

65. Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight


Class Trailer
1 Class Introduction 23:32 2 Photographic Characteristics 06:46 3 Camera Types 03:03 4 Viewing System 22:09 5 Lens System 24:38 6 Shutter System 12:56 7 Shutter Speed Basics 10:16 8 Shutter Speed Effects 31:57
9 Camera & Lens Stabilization 11:06 10 Quiz: Shutter Speeds 07:55 11 Camera Settings Overview 16:12 12 Drive Mode & Buffer 04:24 13 Camera Settings - Details 10:21 14 Sensor Size: Basics 18:26 15 Sensor Sizes: Compared 24:52 16 The Sensor - Pixels 22:49 17 Sensor Size - ISO 26:59 18 Focal Length 11:36 19 Angle of View 31:29 20 Practicing Angle of View 04:59 21 Quiz: Focal Length 08:15 22 Fisheye Lens 12:32 23 Tilt & Shift Lens 20:37 24 Subject Zone 13:16 25 Lens Speed 09:03 26 Aperture 08:25 27 Depth of Field (DOF) 21:46 28 Quiz: Apertures 08:22 29 Lens Quality 07:06 30 Light Meter Basics 09:04 31 Histogram 11:48 32 Quiz: Histogram 09:07 33 Dynamic Range 07:25 34 Exposure Modes 35:15 35 Sunny 16 Rule 04:31 36 Exposure Bracketing 08:08 37 Exposure Values 20:01 38 Quiz: Exposure 20:44 39 Focusing Basics 13:08 40 Auto Focus (AF) 24:39 41 Focus Points 17:18 42 Focus Tracking 19:26 43 Focusing Q&A 06:40 44 Manual Focus 07:14 45 Digital Focus Assistance 07:35 46 Shutter Speeds & Depth of Field (DOF) 05:18 47 Quiz: Depth of Field 15:54 48 DOF Preview & Focusing Screens 04:55 49 Lens Sharpness 11:08 50 Camera Movement 11:29 51 Advanced Techniques 15:15 52 Quiz: Hyperfocal Distance 07:14 53 Auto Focus Calibration 05:15 54 Focus Stacking 07:58 55 Quiz: Focus Problems 18:54 56 Camera Accessories 32:41 57 Lens Accessories 29:24 58 Lens Adaptors & Cleaning 13:14 59 Macro 13:02 60 Flash & Lighting 04:47 61 Tripods 14:13 62 Cases 06:07 63 Being a Photographer 11:29 64 Natural Light: Direct Sunlight 28:37 65 Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight 15:57 66 Natural Light: Mixed 04:20 67 Twilight: Sunrise & Sunset Light 22:21 68 Cloud & Color Pop: Sunrise & Sunset Light 06:40 69 Silhouette & Starburst: Sunrise & Sunset Light 07:28 70 Golden Hour: Sunrise & Sunset Light 07:52 71 Quiz: Lighting 05:02 72 Light Management 10:46 73 Flash Fundamentals 12:06 74 Speedlights 04:12 75 Built-In & Add-On Flash 10:47 76 Off-Camera Flash 25:48 77 Off-Camera Flash For Portraits 15:36 78 Advanced Flash Techniques 08:22 79 Editing Assessments & Goals 08:57 80 Editing Set-Up 06:59 81 Importing Images 03:59 82 Organizing Your Images 32:41 83 Culling Images 13:57 84 Categories of Development 30:59 85 Adjusting Exposure 08:03 86 Remove Distractions 04:02 87 Cropping Your Images 09:53 88 Composition Basics 26:36 89 Point of View 28:56 90 Angle of View 14:35 91 Subject Placement 23:22 92 Framing Your Shot 07:27 93 Foreground & Background & Scale 03:51 94 Rule of Odds 05:00 95 Bad Composition 07:31 96 Multi-Shot Techniques 19:08 97 Pixel Shift, Time Lapse, Selective Cloning & Noise Reduction 12:24 98 Human Vision vs The Camera 23:32 99 Visual Perception 10:43 100 Quiz: Visual Balance 14:05 101 Visual Drama 16:45 102 Elements of Design 09:24 103 Texture & Negative Space 03:57 104 Black & White & Color 10:33 105 The Photographic Process 09:08 106 Working the Shot 25:29 107 What Makes a Great Photograph? 07:01

Lesson Info

Natural Light: Indirect Sunlight

All right, so moving on to indirect sunlight, so sunlight that is illuminated by reflecting off of other objects: Could be buildings, clouds, all sorts of things. And now we're gonna get what's generally called even lighting on our subjects. A lot of advantages here, and so this is a dynamic range that is well within our camera's capability, which means we're gonna be able to record color and detail information in the highlights and in the shadow areas. So we don't have any of these blown out hot spots, we don't have shadows that have completely lost detail, and this is going to allow us a lot more versatility when it comes to post-production. How much can we adjust our images? Can we play with the contrast? Can we work with the lights and the darks to adjust them as we want? And so this is just going to be an easier project to work with, you might say less challenging. Now, it's a little bit weaker in power, and so you're not going to be having an abundance of light where you get to u...

se your fastest shutter speeds quite as easily. It can hide a little bit of texture, because we don't have these distinct shadows in there, and it can hide that depth because you don't have that texture in there, and it's going to reflect whatever the colors are around. There are a number of times where scenes just kinda have a monotone look to them, and that's because everything in the area is bathed in the same color of light. And one of the things that I've tried to get myself out of, and this is true not just with the light, but just in photography, in our own world, we kinda get used to a situation very very quickly. And you gotta think how unusual that particular place might be for somebody who is just scrolling through your images on one of your galleries. I know I've been in certain places, and I'm just like, wow, I've been here for two days and just everything looks the same. But when you're not there and you suddenly see a photo of that place, it looks amazing. And so, try not to get bored with your current environment. Think of it from somebody else's perspective who just arrived there just that second and how unusual that might be, whether it's the color or just the scene itself. So, in this case, this indirect light typically works better with smaller subjects. It's not quite as good with the gigantic landscape, but with more detailed, smaller subjects, which is often what I'm looking for. So I'm often with telephoto lenses and it's a great time for macro photography, when you have this indirect light. And one of the things you want to avoid, especially if you have a big cloudy sky is just a whole lotta clouds in the sky, unless they're interesting clouds. Now, if they're interesting clouds, I think I have at least one photo with interesting clouds coming up somewhere. You generally just don't want a blank white sky above your subject: it doesn't really help out. So there are different types of indirect light and it kinda depends on how the light is bouncing around. Overcast is your typically cloudy day. Open shade is a sunny day, but you found the shade to work in. And then we have reflected light, where it's being reflected off of a significant light source of some sort. So your typical overcast day, covered in clouds. Now, I don't know that I need to explain this, but, cause we have people from Seattle area here, we all know about this, but other parts of the world, we have these white things that cover the sun every once in a while, and it's actually quite nice. It makes life kinda easy to go outside with, you might say. This soft lighting illuminates everything. If you look at this, this is from, where is this from? I think this might be Prague, or yeah, I think it's Prague. Nice even lighting: you can see all the details around the houses and there's no blocked up shadows where things are lost in there. And so, for showy detail, it does a very good job of that. Once again, it's well within the dynamic range of the camera and we're gonna see the advantage of this when you get into post production is that you can add contrast later on, and you can make your images pop just a little bit more with that. All right, so the disadvantages of this is that you might be needing a tripod, and so if you're going out and it's a thick, heavy, cloudy day, light levels are relatively low. I think we saw the video earlier of me shooting Lola and it was a cloudy day. It was kind of a rainy day here in Seattle, and I was shooting some fast action. I think I was up at like ISO 4000 or something. Cause I was needing a very fast shutter speed. And so it can be very challenging, cause light levels, for the average human, is like, "no, this is fine, "I can see everything just fine." But for camera wise, it's not really very bright. It does have a neutral color, which can be good or bad. Neutral's not a bad place to start. I mean, it's better than bad, but it's not like an exciting, nice, warm color. We often have feelings associated with different colors, and those warm, sunrises and sunsets usually have a very positive feeling to it. We don't get that in the middle of the afternoon, and so it can be a little bit on the boring side, a little bit more on the clinical side, you might say. Alright, so only include the sky if it's interesting. We don't want big, blank, expanses of uninteresting clouds in the sky. Once again, it's a good time for getting out those telephoto lenses and macro lenses, cause it's a good time for seeing those details without those shadows, and so get your tripod out there. And this is a great time to be going to the forest. I know a lot of people here in the Northwest like to go hiking a lot and it's, I'm one of those people, and a nice, sunny day from a hiking perspective is great. I can leave the Gore-Tex jacket at home and I can just take my light little windbreaker and I'm probably going to be fine as long as I'm home by eight o'clock at night. On a cloudy day, you kinda hafta bring the Gore-Tex along but it's gonna be nice, even lighting in the forest. A good example of this I found this gigantic stack of antlers. This was in Wyoming and it was this gigantic mound and on one side it was bathed in direct sunlight and on the back side, we didn't have, we had indirect sunlight that was kinda bouncing around. And so I took photos on either side to show what sunlight versus shadows looks like on this same subject, and if you look at the histogram, here's what happens with subjects that are in bright sunlight, is part of it reflects a whole lot of the light and you're gonna get this really really big area of bright pixels. And then everything that's in the shadows is gonna be notably different than that. And so, in some extreme cases, those two mounds just seem to separate more and more and that's kinda when you get yourself in trouble, and we talked about that back in the section on histograms. You know, wide exposure latitudes get to be very very difficult. Whereas in the photo over on the right hand side, yeah, it's a little bit lighter in some areas, and it gets a little bit darker, but you can see deeper in to this mound of antlers on the right than you can on the left because those shadows are so dark there. And we have most of the information right in the middle where we can easily grab it with our eyes and understand it. And so, overcast days can be really good for highly detailed information. And so, here we have some kind of interesting clouds so we'll include a bit of those. We have some nice texture to those. A scene like this would be very difficult under bright sunlight partly because the coloring of the penguins with their black and white the white reflecting light, those would almost all become white, blinky, overexposed areas. The backs of them, the dark areas, if they're in the shadows, would be completely lost. And so, here, it's pretty simple, it's light and dark. But with sun, we would have two different levels of white, depending on if it was in the shadows or the sun, and two different levels of black, depending on if it was in the sun or not. And so, great day for shooting highly detailed information like this. Working in the open shade basically means you're out on a sunny day, but you're working in the shadows, wherever that happens to be. It might be behind a building, or the side of a mountain, and so most of your subject is actually illuminated by a blue sky up there in this case. And so, here you can have even lighting, even though it's a bright sunny day, and you might think it's challenging in other ways, but here you've found a nice little place to work with. And this is going to be available in a lot of different places and it can be very very predictable when you know, "okay, if I go on this side of the building, "there's gonna be some nice, even areas to shoot with." And so, I forget this gentleman's name, but he's becoming quite famous because in Cuba, a lot of photographers go to the boxing ring and photograph him, and he's got just a great face, and they have a great little background there. So, it's relatively only available at brief times, depending on how the sun is moving through the environment, whether you're shooting in the city or out in the landscape itself. You may be needing tripods in here because we're not dealing with direct sun, and we're dealing in the shadows. It's not quite as dramatic, but once again, it is really good for showing a highly detailed subject. We can really see our subject very very clearly in this open shade. You do have to be careful about some of the coloring 'cause sometimes it can have a heavy blue cast. You may need to mitigate that by taking the saturation down in post production, or adjusting the temperature slider in post production as well. And so here you start looking for anything tall enough to cast a shadow. Where is there going to be a shadow on a bright sunny day? I know I go up to Mount Ranier and there's a nice steep hillside in one place and I know if you go down there in the morning, you can shoot wildflowers til about 10 or 11 o'clock in the morning and not be in sunshine so that you can get that nice, even lighting. And so, before the sun comes up, how is the landscape illuminated? Well, basically, the sun is reflecting off of the blue sky and it's the blue sky that's illuminated and so this whole photo tends to have kind of a bit of a blue filter over it and so that's just what it looks like at that time of day. And so, once again, shooting those detailed subjects, is good very early in the day. And so I'm glad that my camera didn't have a white balance setting on it. This was actually shot back in the film days. This is down in Chile, I was doing a bike tour, and these are the Andes and in the morning, the sun would rise, but we wouldn't see it 'til about 11 o'clock because the mountain range is so high. And so the first part of our day is all in the shadows. And that can make for some really good photography if you're looking for the right things. All right, so one of my favorite types of light is reflected light, it's, this is where the light is reflecting off of the subject on to something else. And this particular picture is from Jordan. And this is the treasury building. It's one of the Seven Wonders of the World in Petra. And I remember going there, it was leading my first international photo tour, and I was telling everybody, "okay, we wanna get down there "at seven o'clock in the morning, "before all the other people get down there." And we got down there and there's this kind of famous shot shooting down the canyon wall to this. And we shot lots of photos and we got some things that we were okay with, but I just didn't feel like it was as good as it could be. And the colors just weren't that interesting, cause it was really early morning, it was all in the shadows, and it was just kinda flat, kinda boring light, and when we were leaving in the afternoon, the sun had moved around position, and now was throwing light against one wall and that was bouncing against the treasury building. And so the treasury building was bathed in this red light coming on it, and it looked really, really nice. And as long as I cropped all of the tourists down at the bottom of the frame out, it looked like a nice, clean shot. And so that was my favorite shot coming out of that experience. And it was just like, "wow, I've really gotta "pay attention to where the light's hitting "and what else might be illuminated by that light bouncing." Cause that's not direct sunlight. That's just light bouncing off of a canyon wall. And so, now we're gonna have a nice, even light source, that is potentially, if we have the right color subject, is gonna have some nice color to it. And we can be shooting this in bright sunlight even though we're not shooting direct bright sunlight itself. And so, photographing people with reflected light on them can work really well, so you get them under nice, even lighting situations, but have some nice light reflecting onto them. And so, you don't want any direct sunlight in most of these situations because one little poke out the back and it kinda, a term I like to use is it's revealing the magician's trick. When you get to see kind of outside that little realm of what's going on, you do need a fairly light colored subject, if you have a building that's dark gray, that's not going to reflect much light. And so, pay attention to yellow buildings, and white buildings, there's gonna be some natural reflected light coming off of that. And so, you may need to adjust your white balance as you do this as well. And so this photo and in the following photo, were both taken in kinda the same circumstances. Is that we had a person standing beside a building in the shadows. Now, how are they illuminated? Well, there's a gigantic blue sky that is kind of casting this gigantic blue light down on them and they would be blue if it were not for another reason. And that is is that right in front of them is a whole lotta dirt, and dirt actually makes for a very good reflector, and it's bouncing up onto your subject, casting a nice, white, even light onto your subject. And so, when you photograph them, you wanna shoot, fairly tight. You don't want to show the sun and the blue sky and things like that in the background in most situations; and so, you don't wanna reveal your trick by showing the sunlight on the ground right down there or the sunlight hitting the top of the building. And so, this is the technique that was used for getting this shot here; now I, yeah, got a little bit of sunlight up here, but that's pretty minor. But he is in nice, even lighting, as well as the subjects behind him. As well as his cigars are right here. Nice, even lighting on a bright, sunny day. And then, back in Jordan, my favorite of those photos was this one here and sunlight is hitting this wall here, and then bouncing on to the treasury building. And the next photo, this is just kind of a snapshot of one of our tours: Ken and I were doing a tour in Cuba, and we were in a dark cave. And I wanted to do a group shot of the cave, but I normally don't travel with a flash. I usually shoot just natural light when I'm traveling because I'm traveling pretty light weight. And so we're in this dark cave and I'm trying to think, "how do we take a picture of a group of people "when I don't have a light?" And I noticed that the ceiling was really lightly colored. And so I said, "well, we've got headlamps, "what if we just shine our headlamps up at the ceiling?" And so we're totally illuminated by our own lamps. We had no other lights on this. There's no flash on this, and everyone else's light is just helping light everybody else up. And so, it's just being aware of your environment and what can you use around you, and so I thought it's one of my favorite group shots from our travels, cause we're in an unusual place and we lit ourselves in the way that photographers should, you know?

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

As a photographer, you will need to master the technical basics of the camera and form an understanding of the kind of equipment you need. The Fundamentals of Digital Photography will also teach something even more important (and crucial for success) - how to bring your creative vision to fruition.

Taught by seasoned photographer John Greengo, the Fundamentals of Digital Photography places emphasis on quality visuals and experiential learning. In this course, you’ll learn:

  • How to bring together the elements of manual mode to create an evocative image: shutter speed, aperture, and image composition.
  • How to choose the right gear, and develop efficient workflow.
  • How to recognize and take advantage of beautiful natural light.

John will teach you to step back from your images and think critically about your motivations, process, and ultimate goals for your photography project. You’ll learn to analyze your vision and identify areas for growth. John will also explore the difference between the world seen by the human eye and the world seen by the camera sensor. By forming an awareness of the gap between the two, you will be able to use your equipment to its greatest potential.


a Creativelive Student

Love love all John Greengo classes! Wish to have had him decades ago with this info, but no internet then!! John is the greatest photography teacher I have seen out there, and I watch a lot of Creative Live classes and folks on YouTube too. John is so detailed and there are a ton of ah ha moments for me and I know lots of others. I think I own 4 John Greengo classes so far and want to add this one and Travel Photography!! I just drop everything to watch John on Creative Live. I wish sometime soon he would teach a Lightroom class and his knowledge on photography post editing.!!! That would probably take a LOT OF TIME but I know John would explain it soooooo good, like he does all his Photography classes!! Thank you Creative Live for having such a wonderful instructor with John Greengo!! Make more classes John, for just love them and soak it up! There is soooo much to learn and sometimes just so overwhelming. Is there anyway you might do a Motivation class!!?? Like do this button for this day, and try this technique for a week, or post this subject for this week, etc. Motivation and inspiration, and playing around with what you teach, needed so much and would be so fun.!! Just saying??? Awaiting gadgets class now, while waiting for lunch break to be over. All the filters and gadgets, oh my. Thank you thank you for all you teach John, You are truly a wonderful wonderful instructor and I would highly recommend folks listening and buying your classes.


I don't think that adjectives like beautiful, fantastic or excellent can describe the course and classes with John Greengo well enough. I've just bought my first camera and I am a total amateur but I fell in love with photography while watching the classes with John. It is fun, clear, understandable, entertaining, informative and and and. He is not only a fabulous photographer but a great teacher as well. Easy to follow, clear explanations and fantastic visuals. The only disadvantage I can list here that he is sooooo good that keeps me from going out to shoot as I am just glued to the screen. :-) Don't miss it and well worth the money invested! Thank you John!


Dear John, thanks for this outstanding classes. You are not only a great photographer and instructor, but your classes are pleasant, they are not boring, with a good sense of humor, they go straight to the point and have a good time listening to you. Please, keep teaching what you like most, and I will continue to look for your classes. And thanks for using a plain English, that it's important for people who has another language as native language. Thanks again, Juan