Something almost all professional photographers can reach a consensus on is that the principles of using light well are applicable across all genres of photography and regardless of the equipment being used to capture photos. Whether you are new to your DSLR and shooting in AUTO mode, a professional who shoots manually, working with film or capturing images digitally, a studio photographer who uses additional lighting, or a natural light photographer, good light is very nearly universal.
Learning to have an eye for good light is one of the most important things to master along your photography journey. Here are a few things I have learned about light:
If you are a beginner, keep it simple.
Mixed light sources can be complicated when it comes to editing your images. Stick to one color or temperature, which will make your photos simpler. Your images will also be clearer (and therefore stronger) and you will have greater confidence in your photos!
Be mindful of dappled light.
Dappled light is the light you find underneath a big green tree on a hot summer afternoon. Small areas of light dappling a larger shaded area. This light can be beautiful; it can also create challenging high-contrast shooting conditions. Using dappled light well is a learned skill, one that takes purposeful practice. If you aren't confident in your ability to capture a fabulous image in dappled light, it's probably best to move to a different area if possible. This will make selecting your exposure easier and for a more confident photographer behind the camera!
Don't be afraid of low light.
Let me begin this point by saying that it is important to learn how to set your ISO and shutter speed when working with less available light. That said, don't avoid low light situations altogether! Darker settings can make for incredibly dynamic photos.
Shadow adds depth, dimension, and interest to an image. With practice, you may find that you do not even need to add light to the setting.
Catchlights are your friend.
Did you know there's a name for the reflections you see in the eyes of your subject? Now you do! As I'm sure you are aware, catchlights add visual interest and a certain je ne sais quoi to photos.
In order to capture catchlights in your images, you will need to angle your subject(s) as directly as possible toward a light source. There are myriad naturally reflective surfaces you can put to work for you! Windows, tile, sand, mirrors, water, even concrete can create catchlights!
Use windows with discretion.
If you are new to using the amazing light that can be emitted from windows, place your subjects in more even lighting until you've got focus and metering around windows down pat! Exposure can be fickle when you are learning how to place a subject directly in window light.