Determining what you want to say about your subject will help inform the type of light that will best portray it. If the main element that draws you to a subject is texture or shape, then “sidelight” may be the best option. Sidelight occurs when light hits your subject on one side casting a shadow on the other. It is often thought to be the most pleasing type of light for landscape photography because the contrast between light and dark emphasizes texture and shape.
In this photograph from Mono Lake, California, sidelight emphasizes the rough texture of the tufas bringing out every crevice.
Shadows cast from sidelight can create interesting graphic designs which themselves become the focal point of the image, such as in this photo of the shadows cast from a metal sculpture.
Put these two factors together to make an even more dynamic image. This example demonstrates the power of sidelight. Notice how the light on one side of the pillars and the shadow on the other emphasizes their roundness. Also, the shadows cast from the pillars make an interesting graphic design along with the pattern on the floor.
Sidelight is often best at the beginning or end of the day when the sun is low in the sky creating elongated shadows. When the light enters from the corner of the photograph, halfway between sidelight and backlight, your image will display many of the characteristics of both of these types of light.
Using sidelight is an effective technique for emphasizing the texture of a subject or adding dimension and depth to your photograph. Even subtle gradation from dark to light around an object will add more drama to your photograph.
See my earlier post for more types of natural light that will drama to your photography.