3 Reasons to do Headshots with Natural Light

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I love natural light. I’ve probably said this before, but I prefer it to using studio lights. There’s something soft and beautiful about using the light generated by Mother Nature that makes it perfect for every occasion. I use natural light every chance I get. I even use it for my headshot sessions. You may be surprised by this but I’ve got some great reasons why. Read on to find out more.

Shoot Headshots with Natural Light

I have a 9-foot window in my studio. It’s perfect for natural light photography.

#1 – Natural light flatters every skin tone

From pale milk-white skin to dark chocolate brown, natural light makes everyone look beautiful. No matter the skin tone or the facial features natural light enhances everyone. Now I’m not talking about direct sunlight at midday. That type of light is too harsh. It washes out skin tones and creates harsh shadows. Set up your shoot in open shade. Use the side of a building or under a tree. You can even set up a canopy and shoot underneath. You will love the results, just be creative in how you use it.

Shoot Headshots with Natural Light

While the lighting behind this young woman isn’t natural. The light on her face comes from my 9-foot window. She used this shot in her modeling portfolio.

#2 – Natural light is cheap

If you are just starting out as a photographer, natural light doesn’t cost a whole lot to use. You can create beautiful head shots without fancy studio equipment. It’s a way to get your foot in the door. You might also be unique in your area. Think about branding and how being a natural light photographer might be a way to capture attention from potential clients. You could be the trendy alternative to the typical studio headshot.

Shoot Headshots with Natural Light

Taken outdoors against an old building. My client was looking for relaxed looking headshots for her LinkedIn profile.

#3 – Shooting outdoors is less intimidating

Think about all those giant light stands and softboxes. For someone who may be a little nervous about having their portrait taken, shooting outdoors can take off some of the pressure.

I find that generally, clients who are self-conscious or uncomfortable in front of the camera will relax more easily when I take them outdoors for a session. We chat for a while and generally need to walk a short distance to a location. It gives me a chance to take some of the pressure off them. The client starts to feel more comfortable and the overall look of the headshot is much better.

Shoot Headshots with Natural Light

While not your classic headshot pose, my client was relaxed and comfortable. She looks confident.

Professionals need to exude confidence in their images. They won’t be successful in their business if they look nervous or uncomfortable in their marketing materials.

As photographers, we have to visually communicate our client’s abilities

Remember headshots are all about creating an image. We are a part of the branding process for a company or a freelancer. You are helping to promote an actor or build a brand for a home stager. Your images should help attract potential business. It’s your job to tell people all about your client and their amazing abilities.

Shoot Headshots with Natural Light

As a real estate agent my client wanted a photo that associated her with the local area.

You can do this by taking beautiful and bright images that promote your client as a capable and highly skilled professional. Try using natural light in your headshot jobs. I think you will be pleased with the results. Also, remember that if you are offering a service that seems unique from all the others you can think about charging a little more for your highly specialized product.

Natural light is a great tool. I highly recommend utilizing it whenever you can. Please share your natural light headshots or any questions you may have, in the comments section below.

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Erin Fitzgibbon is a freelance photographer, writer, and teacher, from Ontario, Canada. She specialises in portrait, sport, and fine art photography. In her free time, she escapes to the backcountry or the beach with her family.

  • Mark Sanders

    My personal favorite 🙂

  • Mark Sanders
  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    I can see why its your favourite. Adorable

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  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    I agree. So glad there are people out there who share my taste in photos.

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  • witefeather

    I so love a more natural light portrait to any I see in studios, it really is more like what they would look like in person with the natural light. It’s difficult at times to find the right balance though with time of day and shooting someone who is busy and working and another reason it’s difficult is you never know what kind of weather you will be having. I hate to ask a client in a suit to stand around being photographed when the weather is 90 degrees. And often there aren’t great windows unless you happen to have one handy when you’re on location. There are always tradeoffs with natural light and outdoor photography for sure.

  • Gary Hammond

    I totally agree for if you live in a desert environment between heat, brown and wind it’s a gamble. Also the need for brightening the eyes is often needed in natural light. If you are in a deeply shaded environment or backlit situation the eyes often need additional fill. So many “natural light” photographers seem to be afraid of using fill or off camera flash to enchance their images. More often I think it is a lack of knowledge and understanding of light that keeps them from making their images even better.

  • Desi

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/beb1a62fce315633f8d63ae81c0f04bfe0248e46e0fbe4bb2b2b776f0d0b1aa4.jpg

    As a hobbyist without a studio, and no off camera flash, learning to utilize natural light is imperative for me.

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  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Beautiful shot. Love it.

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    I agree. It can be difficult sometimes. I only ever resort to studio lights if it’s absolutely necessary. At the same time I’ve had clients insist on natural light and nothing else. They love the look. Always have a back up but use your favourite too.

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Fill in the eyes can be created with reflectors. The smart placement of your person can help you manage back lit situations. Just find a spot where that won’t happen. When carefully planned out natural light works perfectly.

    I’m not sure it’s about being “scared” or unknowledgeable. Maybe for some they don’t know. I know what I prefer the look of natural light. If I can shoot in natural light I do and the flashes stay home.

    I like to use V-flats, and reflectors far more than I do flashes and studio lights. A canopy works when it’s too bright. So does an open garage door. I’ve set up in a garage with the double doors wide open and a back drop inside. It’s beautiful light.

    There’s always the risk of the environment but that can be managed. Inform clients about the benefits and drawbacks of natural light. Let them choose.

    Lights for many are seen as a convenience thing. I can shoot whenever because of the lights so I won’t manipulate the natural light. I see it as a challenge. Can I make this work no matter where I am. It forces me to think and plan. It forces me to be very purposeful in what I do. I’ve had to tell clients that it won’t work today because but I’ve also prepared them for that possibility and if they say “Can we shoot in studio” my answer is yes. But given the chance I will shoot natural light first and artificial light second.

    I think it’s about preference.

  • witefeather

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/83072f087566dc2b42ae6be5d3c2774534579ca4e7ecd9c3cc3c634187cfcbb3.jpg
    Unfortunately when I shoot pets, often times I don’t have the ability to use flash, it’s not conducive to the reflectors in their eyes, so natural light is the only thing I can shoot with and this was light from a big sliding door to the left of this cutie. It worked, the client loved it and I shot exclusively with her near a door or outside. Natural light and pets are perfect but you have to adjust your shutter speed and that is the challenge!

  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Awesome tip. Thanks witefeather. The light I think is beautiful. I love those great big catch lights in the eyes too.

  • Carmina Quesada
  • Erin Fitzgibbon

    Hey, Carmen I think the shot has a lot of great elements. It’s a relaxed natural pose. The model looks comfortable and genuine. It’s a very pleasing environment for the shot. If I were to make two suggestions for improvement take a look at the light on his face. It’s a little bit bright. Maybe bring that down a little bit. The other comment is zoom in and take a close look at your focus. His sweater is sharp but his eyes and face are soft. Try to lock focus on his face next time. That’s the most important part of headshot.

    Nice work.

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  • Carmina Quesada

    Thanks Erin ..will keep that in mind next time..

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