How to improve your natural light portrait photography
Tips to improve your natural light portrait photography by Julia Trotti
Courtesy of Juri Gianfrancesco
The invention of artificial light has enabled people to shoot portraits in any kind of light. However, nothing beats natural light portrait photography. It’s characterized by using only the natural ambient lighting that is available for a given location or time to create images. Those who prefer this method do not use any artificial lighting while taking pictures, which results in a more realistic and genuine feel.
Building up your portfolio of non-artificial light portraits takes time but you can speed up how long this takes with some simple tips. Read on to find out!
1) Shooting on overcast days
Lighting is mostly even on overcast days. Spot metering can be used to measure the light on a subject's face and expose it correctly. This creates a more natural looking photo, as opposed to using the "auto" setting and over or underexposing the photo. If the sun is facing the subject, it will make the image pop and emphasise the face.
2) Shooting in the shade
Shooting in the shade is a popular technique because it creates a natural and appealing photo. It is also easier to shoot and not as tricky as shooting in full sun.
The subject and background should have the same amount of shade for best results. The reality is that light changes the whole mood of a photo, so it is important to find a spot with adequate shade from nearby buildings, trees or other structures.
If you are in an undercover area with much brighter light behind, use evaluative metering to light the subject and avoid blown out images.
Courtesy of Juri Gianfrancesco
3) Shooting in direct sun
The sun is at its most flattering when it's on the horizon. When shooting in direct sun, shadows can fall on the subject's eyes and cause unflattering shots. Positioning your subject so that they are facing away from the sun or tilting their head will help prevent this from happening. Also, to avoid long nose shadows across the face, one can minimise this issue by angling the subject in a way that they are not facing directly into the sun.
Another thing you can do is look for shade in your background while you're shooting. Shooting on a cloudy day or shooting with some trees or other objects blocking out the sun will make for more pleasing results.
Courtesy of Haley Lawrence
4) Shooting with backlight
Many people do not realise that the sun in the lens will produce a washed out effect when one shoots with it directly in the lens. Hiding the sun behind your subject will create more dramatic and vibrant images because there is less light for your camera to handle.
When you are shooting with backlight, your camera's metering system will have a hard time balancing the exposure with the foreground and background brightness. Your camera will then most likely prioritise exposing for the foreground, which will leave your background with an unnatural look.
To get a better looking photo, use evaluative metering to take an accurate reading of all parts of the scene. And prioritise exposing their faces, which are in front of you, so that they are well lit and easy to see.
Courtesy of Sonnie Hiles
To be a professional photographer you do not necessarily need expensive equipment, it is only enough to know how to work in natural settings and use light to your advantage.
Hopefully the tips you’ve read will give you more confidence in shooting without any artificial light. You can view our infographic summary on our Instagram page. We can’t wait to see what you produce, share your portfolio with us on our Facebook group and exchange feedback! Alice Camera has a supportive team with more creative people like you and we would love to have you on board whether you’re a beginner or a professional.
Julia Trotti video “Tips to improve your natural light portrait photography”