Master Light & Improve your Photography: beyond Golden Hour with Tanja Slob

Do you think you can only take good pictures during golden hour? Or that you can’t snap a shot directly towards the sun? Having hard shading in your photograph is bad? Tanja Slob calls bullshit. Let’s break the rules and improve your photography along the way.

What do you do when the light doesn’t work for your photography plans for the day? Tanja Slob is a stand out photographer when it comes to working with light. She’s a master of low light photography, shadow play and working in all kinds of weather. Tanja delivers no matter what the skies cook up. If you want to expand your photography beyond golden hour or not cringe when you throw open the curtains to clouds and rainy skies then check out some of Tanja’s suggestions for working with light.

Natural light: beyond Golden Hour

I love natural light. You probably know that golden hour is a good time to photograph because of the soft warm glow. Have you heard of blue hour? This is the time right before sunrise and after sunset. There is still enough light to take pictures without using a flash and it gives you eerie and mood filled blue-ish tones. The diffused light of a cloudy day is perfect for portraits – clouds are a natural shield against shadows. And if the sun is bright you can play with those shadows and use them to your advantage. There is no such thing as bad photography weather, work with what you’ve got and get creative with the conditions.

photography in low light woman on cloudy day
Image Credit: Tanja Slob

&url=" data-link="">&url=" rel="nofollow noreferrer noopener" target="_blank">There is no such thing as bad photography weather, work with what you've got and get creative with the conditions.Click To Tweet

Shadow play and reflections

When there is one light source like the bright sun, a window or lamp creating harsh shadows you can either use the shadows or even them out. Shadows of leaves can give a beautiful pattern. Or manipulate the shade by holding lace in front of it to create beautiful shadowplay.

If you’d prefer to remove shadows you’ll need to to create a light source on the other side of your primary light. This could be a lamp but I like to have the light reflected when it is natural light. You can get fold-up screens – called reflectors at a very reasonable price – but it does not have to cost anything. A white sheet could do the trick or some aluminium foil. Even a mirror reflects light and might give you a whole new look to play with.

Move your ass!

The light in your pictures changes when you move around. Changing your angle changes the light. The best way to see this is to get your phone, put it in selfie mode and start walking through you home. Move closer to your window or turn your phone around your face. Do you see the light changing in the picture? Some light will look flattering while others not so much. The same goes for everything you want to photograph. Move around and find the best place and angle to take your picture.

photography masterclass low light compass in hand
Image Credit: Tanja Slob

Know your camera

If you shoot with a camera turn-off the auto mode and start putting it in manual. You’ll have to learn the basics of ISO, shutter speed, aperture and exposure. This is going to make a huge difference in your search for light. You could watch a YouTube tutorial or, and this is probably something you’ve never done, read your camera manual.

Don’t have a fancy camera? No problem! Most phones have a pro mode. When you turn that on you get a bunch of options like changing the ISO or aperture. Learn what this does for your photography – get playful and see what the settings can do with it comes to working in different light.

photography old school manual camera
Image Credit: Tanja Slob


We learn by doing and not every picture you take has to be a masterpiece. Most photographers have far more images on the scrap pile than make it to publication. Adjust the sliders, press the buttons and see what they do. Change your angle and see what happens. Try out every button on your camera and find out what it does.

And remember a lot of things can also be fixed by editing. I recommend to learn Lightroom which has a great mobile app for editing on the run. I have seen people create wonderful things in the VSCO app and don’t forget the editing options in Instagram.

So start embracing all conditions and have fun with it. No one has to see your disasters and you might just create a whole new style for yourself.


Self portrait of woman floating above black bed in black dress.Tanja Slob is a minimalist with too much stuff, a moody optimist and an adventurer who loves to sleep. Tanja is just as happy on the couch in her pyjamas as she is following her wanderlust. Her photography is an always stunning exploration of the play between light and shadow and a chronicle of both her wanderlust and her days pottering about her own backyard in the Netherlands with her husband and two cats. Explore her wonderful work at @wanderingtanja or @tanjaslob


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