Shoot Your Best-Ever Portraits (Part 2) - Natural light setups

6/27/2012 11:38:32 AM

Natural light setups

Discover how window light can be all you need to create dramatic results.

Description: Overexposed background

Overexposed background

Net effect

The look

When you use studio flash, you almost always modify it, such as by using a softbox. When working with natural light, keep the same idea in mind. The net curtains in a living room are ideal, diffusing the light in much the same way as a softbox does. This is an ideal technique for photographing a bride on her wedding morning.

The setup

Aside from the large window and net curtains, a small silver reflector is used to bounce a little back onto the side of her face. A shallow depth of field reduces unwanted detail so a wide aperture of f2.8 is ideal. By ignoring the camera’s meter and slowing the shutter speed, we’ve been able to overexpose the shot and create a high-key effect without any flash.

Getting the shot

We’ve asked our model to lean into the curtains and rest her head on them while looking back at the camera. We’ve also asked her to wear a simple white top to match the texture and tone of the net curtains.

Overexposed background

Description: Allowing the model to sit on the floor and look away from the camera as if deep in thought creates an appealing image.

Allowing the model to sit on the floor and look away from the camera as if deep in thought creates an appealing image.

The look

Rather than positioning the model so that the light is falling onto her face, you could also try posing her with her back to the light source. If there’s enough space in your location, perhaps you could even consider getting the model to sit down or go for a full-length shot.

The setup

A small reflector is used to ensure light bounces back onto the model from the window behind her. This setup almost exactly recreates the studio setup we tried using just two background lights and a reflector. Just as we did then, we’ve opened up the camera’s aperture to ensure that the model is correctly exposed.

Getting the shot

Ask the model to look off to the side and slightly overexpose the image again. Ignore the camera’s meter. If you expose for the background (in this case the window light) not only will the model end up being very underexposed, you will also record detail from outside such as cars and brick walls.

Description: A reflector is essential here to ensure that your subject’s face is not underexposed

A reflector is essential here to ensure that your subject’s face is not underexposed

Pros and cons of natural lighting

Natural light is free! It doesn’t cost you anything to use and it’s all around us.

Images taken in natural light look closer to what our eyes actually see in everyday life.

You can’t control natural light to the extent that you can control flash lighting.

On very dull days or in low light you’ll need to use a camera that can perform well when using high ISOs.

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