One of the easiest ways to start shooting portraits is to use natural light. There’s no added expense of buying speedlites or strobes, or even continuous lighting. You don’t have to decide where to put the lights, because let’s face it, nature has decided for you. There are still challenges however, and those challenges must be overcome to successfully pull off a natural light portrait. One of the biggest challenges is what to do when the natural light just is not pleasing. Maybe it’s midday sun and the light is too harsh, or maybe it’s later in the day and direct sun is shining right in your subject’s eyes. In my post “Sun Too Harsh? Modify it!”, I discussed ways to use reflectors and scrims to modify natural light to get a more pleasing look.
But what happens if you don’t have a reflector or a scrim? Well then you have it made in the shade! Find some shade, and you’ll find some soft, indirect lighting that can help you create beautiful portraits. Look for a large tree with overhanging branches. Or a doorway. Or an overpass of some kind. Anything that gets you out of direct sun, and into indirect light. It does you no good if there’s no light getting to your subject, but once you find a place with indirect lighting, you’re all set.
The light will be soft and even- and very pleasing. The background will likely go a little darker depending on where you found your shade, be it under a tree, where it might be brighter, or in a doorway or behind a building. Look around, see what you can make happen. And just because your subject is facing out towards the light, doesn’t mean you need to be. Walk around your subject- get that soft light hitting from the side, as well as the front. Just keep your subject positioned so the light is hitting the mask of the face, including the eyes. Just because the light is not pleasing doesn’t mean all is lost. Sometimes, all you need to do is find some shade.
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