For me part of the learning of photography was to read the picture, not through the camera, but with the eyes. Histograms are a new thing, When many of us were learning no one even knew they existed. I was taught to ‘see’, not just the scene but the lighting as well. that included seeing the light and dark areas and compensating for them. I still make mistakes, such is photography.
One of the first things I was taught was to judge the lighting and from that judgement, the exposures that were going to be required for the day. We all are aware that lighting can change from one minute to the next, so it seems strange that I was taught in this manner, but it was surprisingly effective.
I had already been taught how the camera settings worked, and how not to change them. So when I started learning, as dad and I stepped out of the door the first question was “We are taking landscapes what are the base settings?”. If we both agreed then off we went taking pictures, if we disagreed, I soon agreed with him. As I learned better judgement the pictures got better until one day we took nine from ten top places in a photographic competition (we missed a third place).
The point is that it was only by looking and seeing the lighting and the subject as a photographer, that I began to learn how to truly see what I was taking. The photographers eye. As photographers we do see the picture differently.
It is often, and falsely, believed that a blue sky is best for the photographer because it gives more light and therefore a brighter image. Whet is gives is starker contrast, the shadow areas get darker and the white walls burn out. Fact is that some of the best lighting is found when the sky is covered in bright white clouds since the shadows and highlights are more subdued while leaving the picture bright.
I the days of film I was also instructed to take the important pictures, especially of landscapes and architecture, either before 10am or after 4pm. This was because between these times the sun is too high and the views become flattened and have to much contrast.
We still look for the same conditions today although there is more leeway due to the ease in which highlights can be ‘pulled back’ but be careful, if you think you can recover the dark shadows, it will not always work.
I have no doubt others may have more thoughts on this and other aspects of natural lighting.