Photograph is expensive: Cameras are more sophisticated and costly each day, and the price of film and development keeps climbing. But one essential is all around us and free-available light. How you use it can make or break your pictures. You can have the latest camera model, the sharpest lens and the finest grain film, but if the light isn't right the picture won't be good. A cross light that brings out texture, for instance, in fine for the granular surface of sand, the shapes of houses and trees in a landscape, or close-ups of flowers and leaves, but awful for flattering portraits, contrasty beach scenes and "mood" landscapes.

Use a soft front light for portraits by posing your model in the shade facing toward the sun but out of its rays. Or ask the subject to turn his or her back to the light and use a white card (or tablecloth) in front to relect the indirect light. Indoors, pose them in front of a window and capture the soft light glowing through. Or you can move around and take a difference angle. Face your model toward the indirect light in shade, or indoors toward the window. Then move around with you camera, watching the effect of the light. The best angle is usually off-center, about 30 degrees to the right or left of the face.

For landscapes, a strong sidelight is best. This means morning or afternoon shooting. The sidelight will pick out the forms of buildings, hills and trees. Here again, move around with your camera. The best light angle on landscapes is usually when the sun is at a 45-degree angle to the scene.

Don't forget that after the sun has set there is still available light-from street lights, buildings and even indoor lighting right in your home.

"Natural light" is more believable than artificail light. There is really no reason to use flash or other added illumination unless you want to stop action and camera movement. These are the only times you should use "paid-for" lighting.