by Carl Caylor

A good tool for learning to find natural light is to go people watching.  My favorite place to watch people is in the airport. Most airports have massive windows and long hallways that create a great combination for light and background. People are naturally walking through the areas. All you need to do is sit back and watch. When something catches your eye, chances are it was because the person walked into an area of great light.

The educational part comes when you look around the subject and define in your mind where the light was coming from that produced that “eye-stopping” moment. The hope is that you can learn from this discovery and duplicate the affect later when you are on assignment. Be careful. We as photographers can get lost in what we are looking at, especially when there is great light involved.  It’s easy to stare at someone and not even realize you are doing it. There have been a few times when I woke from a “light” trance to find a total stranger wanting to know why I was staring at them.

This image was created during one of my classroom demonstrations. The subject was one of my students and not the person I was photographing. As I talked to the class I noticed the beautiful light on his face and I had to go off on a small tangent.

As you can see in the diagram, the subject was standing near a pillar on the second story of a covered hallway. The open air courtyard allowed light to come in and bounce off the walls behind the subject. The light from the open sky from the Southwest could only get to him from behind as well because the pillar blocked the light from directly to the side of him. The end result was a very nice double accent light.  I just had to record it.

So my question to you… What time of day was it?  Would this image work right here at a different time of day?

Carl Caylor is one of the most sought after instructors in the country because of his “Hands-On” coaching approach. His greatest strength is his ability to see what skills others already possess and then break things down in simple terms to help enhance those skills to a new level. In his Texas School class on “Natural Light Portraiture,” Carl will demonstrate how to find usable light in a natural environment. To learn more, go to