How to shoot portraits with natural light

How to shoot portraits with natural light

Perhaps the most important thing to consider when shooting portraits in natural light is the location of the shoot. Factors such as indoor or outdoor locations, time of year and indeed time of day, quality of light and background will all affect the shoot.

It’s important to carefully consider each of these before even picking up the camera so you can be ready for any eventuality, because unlike working in a photographic studio environment, you have no direct control over the positioning or the intensity of the light.

(c) Ion Paciu

(c) Ion Paciu

Once you have selected a location for the shoot, the next step is placing your model. The two immediate considerations in deciding where to place the model are the background of the shoot and the direct light on the model.

(c) Ion Paciu

(c) Ion Paciu

The purpose (e.g. head shot, family photo) or intended style of the shoot (e.g. mood, theme) will determine the appropriate background.

As per lighting basics, assess how the direct light affects the model. Light that is too bright or strong will create dramatic shadows on the subject. In addition, if the model is looking into the bright light, they will most definitely squint their eyes!

(c) Arnold Newman

(c) Arnold Newman

Softer light will create less contrast and flatten the composition, and will eliminate harsh or dark shadows from the subject resulting a more even skin tones eliminating the blemishes, but by the same token too hard light will result in dramatic composition.

Some ways to overcome some lighting problems outdoors is to make the use of natural shades, such as foliage or structures such as porches, canopies and arbours. Shooting on a cloudy day will provide diffused but consistent light source.