Shooting Challenge #13 - Natural Light

By Martin Snelling on at

The postcard: before the Internet and Facebook, it was the main way people communicated to those back home that they were NOT having a jolly good time and that they wished recipient was there instead of them. Today, the humble postcard has been resigned to the tacky tourist shops and the only people buying them are the blue-rinse brigade and sans-sock hipsters being 'cool'.

Anyway, I digress slightly, as this week's challenge isn't about postcards; it's about shooting in natural light. Then why the hell am I talking about postcards? Well, if you look at any of the non-saucy postcards from 'holiday' destinations in the UK, you'll notice that almost all of them are photographs taken in natural light (and usually on a nice day). And that, my fellow photographers is this week's Shooting Challenge: shooting in natural light (as opposed to unnatural light).


The Brief

So, onto the brief. Your local council has asked you to create a single or series of postcards that shows your town, city or village in a positive (and natural) light. What you choose to shoot is entirely up to you, but the images should be shot in natural light and fit within the traditional postcard dimensions of 6"x4".

And before some of you start moaning about time of year, weather etc -- I am fully aware that February isn't the best time to take lovely photographs that would look good on a postcard. But the challenge isn't about making a postcard.


The Technique

As I've already explained, this week's shooting challenge is all about using natural light and understanding how a change in light can produce a different image.

First off, find your subject/location of choice and visit it at different times of day. If possible, visit it at dawn, mid-morning, late afternoon and dusk. Take images at these different times and compare the results. If you're shooting a wide landscape, try and capture shafts of light through the clouds.

Suggested settings for landscapes:
Overcast - ISO 400, Aperture: f16, Shutter Speed: 1/60s
Hazy Sunlight - ISO 200, Aperture: f16, Shutter Speed: 1/125s
Sunny (yeh right) - ISO 100, Aperture f16, Shutter Speed: 1/30s
Sunset - ISO 200, Aperture f8, Shutter Speed: 1/60s

Mobile phone shooters, take some time to understand your camera app and try some of the different shooting modes. Vignette on Android has several different scene modes including, landscape, night, beach, sunset, dusk-dawn and fall-color. Experiment with the different modes and see what works for your scene.


The Example

The example image was shot on my Galaxy SII on a recent fishing trip to Swanage down in Dorset. It is one of the very few pictures that I have printed, framed and hanging in my house.


The Rules

- Submissions MUST be your own work.
- Submit up to five images
- Photos must be taken after the challenge was published; so no existing shots please.
- Minimal image post-processing is allowed (global changes to levels, brightness, contrast and cropping are permitted)
- Explain, briefly in your submission email, the equipment, settings, technique used and more importantly for this challenge, where the image was taken. Please ensure EXIF info is intact (if image was taken digitally).
- Email submissions to, not me.
- Please ensure your image is at least 600px wide and less than 3MB in size.
- Save your image as a JPG, and use the following naming convention FirstnameLastnamePostcard.jpg
- Don't forget to include a shooting summary (see above).
- Send your best photos by Monday, 18th February 2013 at 6pm UK time with "Postcard" in the subject line.
- Anyone can enter, regardless of location.
- The most important rule -- HAVE FUN