The most important thing to learn to take better photos is this.  Learn to see light.

Now, that sounds a bit strange on first reading doesn’t it?  We see light all the time.  Every day.  All around us.  Without it, we wouldn’t see anything!

But do we really see light?  In a photography sense, not often.  So let’s have a quick look at light and the different features of it that we need to understand to take better photos.

Today I’m talking about natural light, but a lot of this also applies to when/if you start using flash or studio lights.  Light has different qualities and we’re going to look at one of them – colour temperature.

The colour of light changes during the day.  In the early morning, around dawn, it’s quite blue, but as sunset nears it becomes more orange, even red.   The first photo below was shot in the morning, when the colour temperature was cool (i.e. blue), but in the second photo the building is glowing yellow/orange.  That’s because it was shot as the sun was going down in the evening, so the colour temperature was warmer (i.e. orange).

landscape photo of rapeseed field and clouds showing cool blue colour temperature


The Chrysler Building in New York bathed in early evening sunlight

And, of course, as the sun does set the colours can become completely amazing.

So, the first (and easiest) way to start to see light is to take photos at different times of day and compare them.  Try shooting in the early morning – on a sunny day your photos will appear quite light, bright and sharp because of the cool temperature, but if you shoot nearer sunset there should be a warm glow lighting your subject.  Give it a go and feel free to email or message me with results.  And if you’d like to receive more tips on taking great photos, why not sign up to my newsletter?  The link’s at the top of the page.

(Note:  all three photos published in this post were shot on an iPhone.  Taking good photos is all about having knowledge and using it, not about having expensive gear.  A little knowledge will take you a long way).