Natural Light Photography

Portrait Photography Basics: 4 Tips for Taking Perfect Natural Light Portraits 

Using natural light comes with a wide range of advantages, especially price and ease. However, there are some things any photographer needs to be aware of when working without studio equipment. With these tips in mind, you should be well on your way to taking the perfect natural light portraits. 


  1. Make time and weather work for you, not the other way around

One of the most useful aspects of natural light is versatility. Every day and position of the sun provides a slightly different background. Keep this in mind beforehand and try to match the portrait you want to the lighting. In the right hands, weather and time of day are tools to create a mood. Photographers will tell you that certain types of light are the best, but no individual kind of light is the best for every photographer or every model, so experiment with different times of day and types of weather to find what’s right for you. For example, most people advise against shooting in midday because of the harshness of the light, but this type of light has its own advantages if you know how to work with it. Shooting in the right environment is a key skill to improve. 


  1. Choose the right lighting angle

When the sun is your light source, it’s important to put it in the right position relative to your model. If the light is in front of you and behind the subject, you run the risk of ending up with a washed-out portrait. That doesn’t mean it’s never a good idea, but you should keep it in mind if you choose to use backlight. A lens hood is a great tool to use in this situation. 

Another option is front lighting, where the sun is behind you, facing the model. This generally leads to lower contrasts, since all areas of the portrait receive equal lighting, as opposed to backlight, which creates more shade. You also want to ensure that the sun isn’t shining directly into the subject’s eyes, which isn’t good for anyone. Side lighting is a great option to use, as it gives some of the advantages of front and back lighting. It also creates longer shadows, which can make for interesting contrasts. To get the best side lighting, shoot when the sun is lower in the sky, in the morning or early evening. 


  1. Shade is your friend

Too much light can be a very bad thing when taking natural light portraits. If you’re shooting in a very bright location, putting your subject in an area where the light isn’t so strong will give your photo a softer mood and avoid some of the issues mentioned above. However, you should try to avoid creating too much of a contrast between the shaded and bright parts of the portrait. 

In addition to shade, cloudy, overcast days are sometimes the best for getting soft, natural-looking light. You’ll still have the light you need, but you won’t have to worry about the sun creating intense contrasts or forcing your model to squint during the shoot. 


  1. Practice

These tips should help to get you started, but once you’ve learned the portrait photography basics, the best thing to do is to start shooting! Nobody except you knows what kind of photos you want to take, or the mood you want to create, so you’ll have to figure out what’s best for you. Don’t be afraid to ask friends or family to model for you so you can gain experience working with different techniques! 

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