Shooting with Available Light - Lifestyle Portraiture

Shooting with Available Light – Lifestyle Portraiture

In this post Véronique da Silva from shares more tips on how to take portraits with available light.

One recurring question I often get asked is, “Do you use flash?”. My answer is “I prefer not to”. I was trained commercially, using some of the best flash equipment on the planet, and I know how to use them. But I choose not to, for the most part. Life offers us some of the most beautiful lighting and it is literally up to us to step up to the challenge of unpredictability, to seek it and to use it properly. As a natural light photographer, I do make use of reflectors and diffusers to play with the available light and tweak it to my liking.


I am a portrait photographer, and I have noticed that the average person does not feel comfortable in a studio setting with lights flashing at them. It becomes overwhelming and does take over and interfere with the image capture. My general rule is if I can photograph them outside or in their element with minimal additional lighting, I will do so. The result will inevitably be better.

Here are some tips for shooting with natural light!

When shooting outside in full daylight, many people feel tempted to either use flash or place their subjects in open shade. Yes, it is true, open shade makes for easy light, but the more interesting light, the shadows, the sparkle, lies in the sun! Push your comfort level by stepping out of the shade, and shoot tons! Photograph in full daylight, at all hours of the day. Shooting mid-day will be the most challenging, but be creative! Look for interesting shadows and shapes, and play with them. Stop and analyze a scene before shooting and look for interesting vantage points that enable the light to play its amazing tricks.


When photographing people in daylight, my recommendation is to begin by shooting with the sunlight in back of your subjects. Most people will squint in full sun and/or blink frequently. By back lighting your subjects, you will allow them to be more comfortable and in return they most certainly will be more cooperative!

What happens with blown-out skies? The answer to that is “nothing”! There really is nothing wrong with exposing for the subject and letting the rest go where it goes. Perfectly lit images (with detail in the whites and shadows) have their place, but I find it can be restrictive and really unnecessary when photographing people (and trust me, I LOVE the perfect Ansel Adams print!).


With the use of reflectors, you can minimize the contrast and reclaim some detail in the background. A silver reflector will add a nice clean sharpness to the image (I really love a silver reflector when shooting professional head-shots), but remember that it is a strong reflector and you do not want to blind your subject! I use a simple white reflector most of the time to slightly open up the shadows but keep the charm of back lighting. I also love playing with sun flares! They are completely unpredictable but can be so lovely! It goes without saying that to make the most out of the use of reflectors you will need extra hands – this is when a helper comes in very handy!

When using flash, I prefer using it as a secondary light, letting the ambient or surrounding light play the main role. When shooting interiors, I will bounce the flash off the ceiling or off my handy reflector, and create a softer light than shooting forward straight off the camera. It is also a much more flattering light. I typically under-expose the flash 1.5-3 stops and slow down the shutter to let the beautiful ambient light filter in.

As with everything, practice is a must! Play around, and don’t let intimidation or the unknown guide your decision – you’ll surprise yourself and definitely expand your skills! Most importantly, have fun!


about_blog_1.jpgAbout the Author: Véronique da Silva is a Portrait & Lifestyle Photographer.

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Some Older Comments

  • Zoila September 29, 2013 04:25 am

    I was recommended this blog by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my
    problem. You're amazing! Thanks!

  • tomservo51 December 27, 2012 07:30 am

    Regarding the first two pics, I really like the first one, my only issue with the second pic is having the model bring her arms away from her body. This makes a someone look thinner which doesn't work for this model in my opinion. Otherwise, your shots are lovely! I would be very happy if I had paid you for them which is my measure of a PRO.

  • Mohaimen Kazi Photography March 30, 2012 12:20 am

    WOW! Those shots!

  • Len Firewood January 26, 2012 03:16 am

    Hi - being an amateur photographer with a strong bias towards landscapes - portrait shots or people focused shots are not what I usually do more than quickly glance at. Any blow out's in landscape photography is usually a no no (although there are some who like the creative licence to include them in certain settings) so my first reaction to the first 2 shots in this article as somewhat negative but then I realised that was because of my bias towards landscapes - once I had recognised that I was able to view the photos in a different light as it were. Still not a great fan of portraiture but I appreciate the skills employed here and indeed the creative daring to go all out in emphasis of your subject.

  • Louise Jaffe January 3, 2012 05:05 pm

    Your images are beautiful. We should all be so lucky to be your subject. I have the reflector and a medium format camera. I have yet to go digital. Can you offer any advice? Which camera do you use?

  • PETERSON GWARO May 23, 2011 06:57 pm

    I am very happy to read from your tips that are simplifying the necessary knowledge that one should have when shooting. i could like to have a concern in relation to using of FLASHES and POSITION that one should be when shooting in day light. i used to tell somebody to face the light when shooting, this is because the light from the sun could have interfered with flash and spoil the picture. now you are recommending that the light from the sun should be at back of the subject something which i fear could cause collision . sometimes you might find that the light at the back of the subject is some how brown and the subject is like the same. will this not distort the image of the picture? otherwise thanks for reaching photographers through your spontaneous effort, God bless you.

  • asasd May 5, 2011 11:20 pm

    with the available light, less or more we can have great photos if we adjust our camera properly.

  • ScottC March 10, 2011 05:59 am

    I'll make no claims about portrait photography but I do appreciate the use of available light.

    Not the same "scott", BTW!

  • Deepak February 24, 2011 09:10 pm

    Couldn't believe the poor guy Scott was getting a hammering left right and center. He expressed his view though to an extent I disagree with him but is it too much of thinking or asking even from the esteemed writer of this beautiful article to spare him a rod ?

    I understand that most people around us in the world we live in care less about where the other is coming from. But just not commenting on his posts or disagreeing with him is far better then calling the fellow names. If someone is at error what good will it do if all start taking sides and beating on him.

    I have seen mere polite refrains win wars and create peace. Though my opinion hold no signifance in here since I hardly comment but I couldnt help but share that we can as sensible humans can do much much better then this. Our patience is a gift. Let us use it. :-)

    Thank You Veronique but I guess I was not able to get enough juice from this article. But others have. So I know it is just that I have not experimented with shaders and diffusers and hence it is my doing only. But thanks a lot for some good tips :-)

  • Tenis Oakley February 22, 2011 10:15 am

    I really like theses photos. Thanks for this awesome tips! And also beatiful photographs.

  • Rich Copley February 21, 2011 08:15 am

    I find sometimes I can get a bit too hung up on gadgets and flashes and forget to just work with the big Speedlight in the sky. This is inspiring stuff - particularly as the weather is starting to improve here in North America.

  • Corne Smetsers February 20, 2011 07:34 pm

    Great article indeed, got 1 reflector but almost never use it... maybe gonna take it out of the closet soon!

    But i'm afraid, living in Holland, we don't have spectacular sunshine all day haha. Cloudy and rainy days are found every week. So the clouds are my natural softboxes :). That in combination with my off camera flash helps me make my shots.

  • Lynda February 20, 2011 11:17 am

    i thought the article was great. You had some tips for me that I had not thought about before. As an amateur, I'm willing to try it all.

  • In_sleep February 18, 2011 11:22 pm

    @ Singapore wedding photography have a look at and click on 'lighting 101' You'll find some fantastic techniques for lighting your subjects with flashes and making them a bit more dynamic.

    A brilliantly written article with some fantastic images, I'm definitely going to try this out this weekend!

  • Singapore wedding photography February 18, 2011 05:43 pm

    I'm still experimenting with flashes. Theorectically it is always suggested to underexpose the flash by 1-2 stops. But I find that even with that and a diffuser, i still get pretty "flat" images. Any suggestions how i can make the picture more dynamic and maybe a little more warm?

  • mar cueto February 18, 2011 04:24 pm

    I like portrait photography and your article is very helpful..I like the pictures specially the first looking forward to your next post on posing..i surely need that!

  • Bruce52 February 18, 2011 03:35 pm

    Whoops - Veroniqe. My apologies!

  • Bruce52 February 18, 2011 03:33 pm

    Scott Johnson must be a real jerk. Never mind. Veronica's shots are great. Whether or not they technically fall into the gambit of what some pro's or wanna-bees might think, the best photographs imo are the ones I like - nothing more nothing less - and I expect the same would apply to most people. Natural lighting is great and it doesn't matter if the results have been through post-production or not. Creativity is the key regardless of the tools. And in Veronica's examples they were few and worked well. Well done.

  • Steve February 18, 2011 02:07 pm

    Great article and great work. I have been using flash more and more lately and have wanted to get back to the basics by using just available light. Your work demonstrates how effective available light can be.

  • Anne February 18, 2011 01:30 pm

    Thank you for posting this article. Love your photos. I have always tried to ensure the background and the subject are well lit - am going to go practice now with putting the sun behind the subject and not worry if the sky gets blown out - your simple b&w image of the lady at the beach is lovely.

  • Meghan February 18, 2011 10:08 am

    Beautiful photos. It's easy to take a lovely photo of a 22 year old. It's a lot more difficult to make a woman over 30 feel as sexy and radiant as you've shown your models (or clients) to be.

    Inspirational work. Gorgeous use of light. Thank you.

  • Sara Hazeldine February 18, 2011 08:51 am

    @Celesta - the lady in the first photograph is fully clothed. I don't personally have any issues with the photograph at all and would share it with anyone, but then we are all different.

    Great article, thank you. x

  • Kathy T February 18, 2011 05:44 am

    I love working with natural light and although I am not a professional as such, I do get some some photographic portraiture work. I love your work Véronique and your tips and comments. It is disheartening when someone makes comments that are completely ignorant and not worth while printing. Constructive criticism is one thing but the other is not worth reading or taking notice of. Anyway I have always wondered about photographing in the middle of summer and during the midday hours and the general view about the harshness of the light and the problems with contrast etc. Yet so many people are out and about photographing various subjects during these times, that surely there would be a way round the problems and with your tips I believe there is. I will certainly be trying to photograph portraits during the sunny summer days and try out your tips, after all I have seen countless wedding albums with photos taken down the beach from midday onwards in the sun and the albums were beautiful.

    Thanks again for your tips and advice

  • christina February 18, 2011 05:01 am

    scott is actually inadvertently posting a positive comment when he says "All these shots seem way too staged." Life's a stage honey!

    Véronique da Silva --> Great article! Now we can all relax and stop trying too hard and let the natural light fill the frame which I love to instinctually do. And now I know I have a friend out there doing the same without judgment or reprisal from me.

    Always always be yourself and trust it no matter what other people say. :-D

  • Celesta February 18, 2011 04:34 am

    Perhaps just a suggestion. When there is nudity in the articles, explicit or subtle, it limits whom I can forward the link to and if I can share it on Facebook. I am talking about the first photograph in this article. Call me conservative, but I cannot share it with my colleagues at work, for example. If it is easily avoidable, making the articles more sharing-comfortable would make them more popular. Thank you.

  • Barb DeRizzo February 18, 2011 03:46 am

    Veronique, Photography is subjective, right? What one person likes, another one doesn't. I think your images are wonderful. I too prefer to shoot in natural light, I appreciate your tips, and the fact that a blown out sky is ok, when your subject is properly lit. I agree!

  • Gerard Duya February 17, 2011 09:17 pm

    Thanks for the article. I also can't wait for your next post about directing models. Cheers!

  • Ilona Nelson February 17, 2011 08:49 pm

    Thank you Veronique and all the DPS writers for being so generous with your time and knowledge.

    When baby #2 is a bit older I plan on making photography my day job (not just the medium for my art) and the information on this site has been invaluable, helping me research and prepare for when I become a pro photographer.

    Thanks again for continuing to motivate and inspire us xx

  • obitus February 17, 2011 08:29 pm

    Thanks for the post, good to know that it doesn't take huge amounts of money and heavy equipment to get some good shots!

    Shooting against the sun is great fun, but you have to try&error a lot.

    This is my attempt:

  • ScottC February 17, 2011 02:00 pm

    Glad to catch this repost, portrait photography is something I really need to learn more about.

    The closest I usually get to portrait photography are candids like this.

  • Henno February 17, 2011 09:53 am

    May I suggest some moderation on the comments. Things said by trolls, aka Scot, is simple distasteful, and takes focus away from the article and real reason everyone reads it.

    My 2 cents.

  • D.H. February 17, 2011 07:49 am

    Thanks for an excellent article! Great photographs too. I really enjoyed reading this and looking at your work.

  • Erik Kerstenbeck February 17, 2011 07:42 am


    I always prefer to shoot with available light when at all possible. Sometimes you just cant setup an off camera flash, haul a huge softbox or diffuser around. This shot, for example, was taken during an on and off overcast day and turned out pretty nice without much fancy lighting. Some exposure compensation was applied to the RAW file in Post, but not much.

    Piercing Blue, Trash the Dress:

    Regards, Erik
    Kerstenbeck Photographic Art

  • Regan February 17, 2011 07:22 am

    This is a great article, without a doubt and I appreciate that Victoria shares her passion with us. People like Victoria inspire me to make the effort to take better shots, Elizabeth Halford and other contributors are to be thanked for taking the time they could spend with paying customers to share their talent.

  • Yaseen June 10, 2010 07:48 am

    Please show mercy. First time im doin this, so i’m not sure how I’m notified if there are any responses to any of my questions. I’ll save this page an open it up again. Hope it works. Love the fact that you so gladly share your experience with everyone. Truly means alot to someone like me.
    Very productively interactive site, mus say.

    Doing mostly fashion. Buying my First flash, NIKON SB800(2nd hand).
    I’m using a NikonD50

    How do my camera settings communicate with my flash settings? Do I adjust my camera settings then adjust/select flash settings separately? Example once I’ve set my iso, aperture, shutter speed and taken the meter reading, do I then select my flash settings.

    Could u help me understand a basic flash setup procedure e.g. set flash mode, then select flash speed…? If I’m making any sense.

    I’ve learned that the focal length that my camera is on, affects the output of my flash?
    How does me changing foul length affet my flash output?

    Quote, “don’t shoot too fast cos u’ll blow up flash because all of the power u asking it to pump out by pushing it 3 full stops and zooming flash head to its max at 105mm .Which is another great feature.” ? I think I read this here. What does this mean? Sounds important.

    Quote this site,” I set my flash to high sync speed mode so I could shoot at 500th shutter speed. Why shoot at such a high shutter speed? So I could capture a nice blue sky and not blow out the background. My Fstop was 6.3 ISO was 160. Now when u use such a fast shutter speed you obviously need to demand more power from your flash. Also using an Fstop of 6.3 demands more power. So I set my flash exposure compensation to plus 3Stops ! I also set my zoom head on the flash to 80mm instead of letting it set itself to 44mm automatically. As u can imagine I was asking my flash to do a lot and demanding a lot of power. So I had a quantam batter pack attached to give it the flash and extra power it needed.”
    I‘m lost after, “Also using an Fstop of 6.3 demands more power”. Flash xposure compensation to 3stops? Zoom head? Set itself? How does setting itself ffect anything? Do I need a battery pack for my flash?

    Quote,” I then set the flash to ETTL and high speed sync mode, dialed up the flash exposure 3 whole stops and zoomed the flash head to 105mm. I was standing about 8feet from the model with an 85mm lens on the camera. Now this is the awesome part! I then set my shutter speed to 1/1250th of a second! My Fstop was 4.5 and my ISO was 200. I shot away and this was the beautiful result even under the midday sun.
    The high speed sync mode is my favourite feature. I now am not limited to syncing at only 1/1250th of a second. I can capture details in my background and control my contrast by using a very fast shutter speed.” Huh? What does dialing up flash exposure mean? How and why would u zoom a flash head? But could’nt a high sync mode of 1/1250th of a second overheat the flash?

    Being able to zoom the flash head from 24mm all the way to 105mm gives the photographer so much more control and room to play. How?

    Buying an SB800. I’m worried about it overheating. Heard that if u take too many shots in a row it could overheat. Apparently I’m spose to wait 2-3mins after doing 30 shots? Does this mean that need to pace my use of the flash/ allow it to recover?
    I don’t want it to overheat or melt down (

    Since theD50 does not cater for the commander mode, the only way(cost effectively) I have to shoot off camera is sync cable. I need a sync extension cable, cos most of the ones I’ve seen in the retail shops are very short. I’m Looking for a 10m or more at least.

    What is high sync speed?

    I’m quoting,” how to shoot wide open apertures with flash and hi speed sync”
    What does this mean?

    How do u keep your focus locked on subject, when the subject is moving ? focus tracking, and how does this work basically.

    How do u set your camera flash to light your subject/model relative to background ?
    Could one take meter reading off subject and then adjust setting within 3F stops ?

    Quote, “At mid day you’re probably gonna get an F/16 which is very bright. So that means your flash needs an output at least F/11 and that is asking a lot from an off camera flash.” What in the world does this mean?

  • NewsWorthy May 8, 2010 04:23 am

    Great write up and some very interesting tips. I too would like to try them but am interested in your settings for the pictures.

    ~ NewsWorthy ~

  • Attiev February 5, 2010 01:25 pm

    Excellent article! Very informative and the images are absolutely gorgeous! I hope you don't mind that I am linking this article to my website.

  • Jennifer M. December 12, 2009 04:56 pm

    Beautiful work!

  • Joe D'Silva December 8, 2009 03:51 pm

    I generally turn off flash too.. (ok that's my excuse, I ain't no pro with lighting :D ) ... and the first advice I give to my friends with P&S who asks me for some tips after seeing my image is... "Ok, let's start by tuning off that flash..." I hope I am not hurting the economy.

  • Paul Christopher November 28, 2009 08:22 am

    Véronique da Silva, you're either a very subtle sarcastic woman or one of the most polite professionals I have ever come across. Cheers!

    I appreciated your advice which I have truly been looking for with regards to non-flash photography. I have tried flash but I prefer my natural light / available light shots, even at concerts. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.

    Thank you again...

  • Kacy October 30, 2009 06:28 am

    Magnificent images. I'd love to know how Veronique accomplishes such clarity and beauty in her images. I'm really jealous. <3 <3 <3 Thanks for the tips!!!

  • Andrea October 20, 2009 01:39 pm

    First of all i'd like to say i think Veronique is very tallented and have seen a number of her postings on this site and have found all of them to be of a high standard. I think she comes across in a positive, understandable way that everyone can follow along with, without it going way over your head and off into la-la land.
    Second of all on all the posts i've seen there has been one or two shall we say "RUDE" comments off a very small minority who i think are feeling a little green and twisted with jealousy. Obviously they feel inferior and intimidated by Veroniques work . Pond life is of superior inteligence to the likes of these individuals.
    I know how it feels, i haven't been involved in photograpy long but i love it with a passion and recently have begun to feel more confident and proud of what i've achieved over the past twelve months, i posted a picture on a site and recieved a cutting comment about my blown out sky, this left me questioning my ability and my confidence took a knock.
    But now i'm thinking if Veronique can be bad mouthed and her work is simply stunning, then i don't mind these individuals and maybe should find it an honour really. Veronique I for one think your a star and love your tutorials and advice.

  • Alina B October 1, 2009 03:16 pm

    Veronique: I love, love, love how you advocate keeping a shoot simple. I think too many photographers are hung up on the gear and post production and forget the art. Cheers!

  • B P Maiti October 1, 2009 10:40 am

    The article is informative and inspiring.Mid day back lit portaiture is tricky against environment.Washout is a common phenomena.For careful handling more details on exposure consideration may be given.

  • Véronique da Silva September 30, 2009 01:43 am

    Elizabeth Halford - simply gorgeous images! WOW!

  • Brian September 28, 2009 08:10 pm

    I enjoyed your tips and your images work nice.

  • rick lumpas September 27, 2009 10:30 pm

    You have commercial grade photos! I bet many have asked for your professional services. I saw your website and I'm impressed. I wish you could share some of the settings in any of the photos in this article.
    Do you really prefer to shoot B/W?


  • Elizabeth Halford September 27, 2009 12:03 am

    Thanks again Veronique you inspired me and I tried your tips:

  • Richard X. Thripp September 26, 2009 01:31 pm

    Nice portraits! I like the second because you can see her nipples, but the first is better because she has a nice smile. Her facial expression in the second isn't as good.

    I too have been prone to under-exposing a person or object to keep the clouds from clipping. I didn't do this in 2004-2007... it's something I started doing in 2008 because I was becoming a "better" photographer. And now I'm undoing that! Let the sky wash out if it isn't the subject. Great tip.

  • XposurePro - Photography Tips September 26, 2009 12:57 pm

    Great post. Véronique has some awesome shots. Anyone who didn't go to her site should check it out.

  • Matt Ballard September 26, 2009 01:45 am

    Great tips on available light shooting!

    One that can really make or break an available light shot is composition, and you've got some fantastic compositions here! Kudos.

    Personally, I like the shot with the nipples showing through the shirt. I think it's artsy and edgy. I can see why some might now care for it, but that's the beauty of being a photographer. You get to express YOUR vision! :-)


  • ROD B. FERMIN September 25, 2009 09:04 pm

    refreshed by your postings, am agreeable that available light portraiture would be much equipped and complimented with white reflectors in lieu of the flash unit/s.

  • Najam Quraishy "Chico" September 25, 2009 08:07 pm

    Excellent work! Veronique
    I have been in the business for over 25 years mostly custom printing
    Been extensively shooting for the last 5 years mostly studio portraits
    Loved your shots in natural light! Yes good make up artist and model
    help but being able to communicate with your model is very important
    and most of all the right eye to capture your image in the camera.
    Keep it up!!!

  • Robin Ryan September 25, 2009 01:31 pm

    Great article, Veronique. I also can't stand to use flash when outdoors, but it makes it trickier. On the plus side, we get shadows!

    I was volunteering in a very poor village in Mexico and shot a few of the children... this one I use a hanging ceiling to get the shadow covering the top of his head, while the light source (the sun, thank you) was still above him, giving us catchlights:

    This one was inside of a cathedral, and as such as low-speed... I put it on a pew and thankfully the ancient priest didn't move:

    thanks for putting this together, veronique

  • Linda September 25, 2009 12:00 pm

    Thank you Veronique for taking the time to write such a great article.Your images are professional and stunning. I agree that a good make-up artist is invaluable. I look forward to reading more of your articles : )

  • geoff September 25, 2009 09:56 am

    To each his own, and I hope not to publicly embarrass myself here, but I thought the use of a thin white t-shirt, with her arms posed just right, and strong back-lighting, made that shot wonderfully intriguing. Great use of natural lighting and the feminine form.

    And if she is in her 40's, wow, that model looks amazing!

  • SigSoldat September 25, 2009 06:47 am

    These are some very nice shots and have given me some nice ideas. Thanks for sharing!

    My only complaint is that the first model is very beautiful, but the shot of her without a bra is awful! Her first image made me think she was young and vibrant, probably in her mid-30's. Once my eyes caught her sagging breasts, her entire being aged a good 10-15 years!

    If you plan on throwing modesty out the window, at least do so in a manner that flatters your model.

  • Paula September 25, 2009 05:37 am

    Awesome work. I appreciate all the how to's on this sight. I also appreciate having it given to me for FREE. When making negative feedback one should think about him/herself before posting it.....are you perfect? NOT!
    I have a newly born photography business & I must say I have already learned that everyone tastes are different. What I may love & find amazing the next person may not. Thanks again for the great photos. Absolutely beautiful & tasteful. God Bless!

  • amir September 25, 2009 05:29 am

    thanks, lovely photographs


  • Sony Jim September 25, 2009 04:54 am

    Great article Veronique! It conferms what I have been learning since getting into photography is that there is light and different ways of using it, and also know the rules...then break them!

    P.S. Scott, The D in DPS stands for Digital, not Drama.

  • Don Becker September 25, 2009 02:54 am

    Excellent article and good tips. I personally do not care for "sun spots" in the frame, but that is a personal thing. I also love the back lighting as you show it, which can act like a hair light among other things. The angle of the sun is why many people prefer early mornings and late afternoons for their natural light portraits.

    In portraiture, it also helps to have an attractive looking person (like the models shown), although everyone has their own beauty... it is up to the photographer to find it and bring it out. It is amazing how much the angle of the face can affect the overall look of a person.

    Thanks for a great article!

  • Juan September 24, 2009 11:01 am

    Many thanks. Your pictures are very nice, look so professional.

  • Véronique da Silva September 24, 2009 02:03 am

    @jaideep: The bigger the reflector, the more beautiful and embracing the reflected light will be. My main reflector disk is a little bit smaller that my arm span - and then you can ark it to tweak the light just the way you like it!

    @amir: Yes I do use spot metering on the face, and then manually adjust all settings to reflect the look I want.

  • Greg Easton September 24, 2009 01:09 am

    "so, you spot meter the light from your subject’s face?"

    I'll tell you what i do but that doesn't mean it's right....

    I come in close on the model until their face fills my viewfinder. Then I adjust my settings until the camera says it's 'right' (Side note: my camera and I never agree on what's 'right' but it's a start) and when I back up I can ignore the camera's internal meter because it's trying to expose for the whole scene and I just care about the model.

  • amir September 24, 2009 01:01 am

    so, you spot meter the light from your subject's face?

  • @seemasugandh September 23, 2009 01:25 pm

    I loved this! Thank you! The next time someone sticks me in the squinty sun for a photo I'll have something to say about it. Ha! lol :-)

  • Jaideep September 23, 2009 12:20 pm

    Lovely photos - and so what if they are "staged" :)

    Veronique - what size reflector do you use ? I saw a few on ebay which are all the way from 22" to 44". Appreciate any thoughts on what is a sensible size to use for outdoor portraits.

    Thanks for the tips!

  • Nicole Sims September 23, 2009 08:50 am

    Lovely work, beautiful images and thank you for putting yourself out there for the rest of us to learn from and enjoy!

    My mother used to say if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all....SCOTT. Ever try using some tact in your approach? Maybe yoga, serenity now...

  • Chris Sutton September 23, 2009 07:30 am

    Great article thanks. Hurrah for someone striking out and not getting hung up if the sky / background blows out: "What happens with blown-out skies? The answer to that is “nothing”! There really is nothing wrong with exposing for the subject and letting the rest go where it goes."

  • Véronique da Silva September 23, 2009 06:33 am

    My set-up is so simple it hurts! I have an assistant hold the reflector in the way I like the light to reflect at the moment and then I play around! The exciting part of shooting with little or no setup is that you are free to move around - simply instruct whoever is helping you to follow ;) My 5 year old loves to assist me with the "big sun" as she calls it. I also have some reflectors that I can set up on tripods, but I deliberately kept these shots away from this post. For the photographer working on a budget - try using foamcore! You can buy a large sheet and cut it into manageable (larger is better) sizes and voila! You have a reflector! Please keep posting links to your wonderful images! I love looking at your work! Have fun!

  • Mark Kenny September 23, 2009 05:35 am

    Wow Veronique, that much detail in natural light is quite something. Maybe it's just living in dark northern Europe that's stopping me getting such good shots and not my simple lack of talent ;-)

    Here's an example of 'some' work we do without natural light. A stadium shot, with a studio shot, another stock stadium shot, with some 3D, with some more studio shots and another couple of stadium shots, and a whole host of post-production...

    It's nice to see real photography, even digital and less post work still happening.

    And folks, just ignore trolls, simply just ignore them.

  • geoff September 23, 2009 02:53 am

    Are there no moderators for article comments? A few volunteers could keep a site like this real pleasant, easily.

  • Elizabeth Halford September 23, 2009 01:29 am

    Hi Veronique! BEAUTIFUL images! I'm a writer for this site and you should expect rude comments. I have to bite my tongue (fingers) constantly but have to remain professional. The most rude comments come from people who aren't even photographers, it seems. Keep your chin up and ignore the haters. Beautiful post.

  • Fred September 23, 2009 12:02 am

    You may well be right, Jeffrey, but your choice of language is hardly appropriate. I sometimes think it's a pity DPS forum postings aren't moderated.

  • Jeffrey Kontur September 22, 2009 11:58 pm

    I stopped writing for DPS because it was starting to get overrun with trolls. Remember, those who write for this site are not paid to do so. Moreover, those reading all these valuable tips are not charged for the privilege. Anyone, troll or not, being mean or spiteful just because you were given something for free and it isn't what you wanted is small and petty. It does seem to have toned down a little recently, except for the occasional outburst from jerkholes like Scott. Though even the more well-meaning people sometimes have a tendency to be critical of the posts they don't like. Remember, you're getting all this stuff for free people!

    I've seen several of Véronique's articles and think she does a good job. Keep it up!

  • Tom September 22, 2009 06:25 pm

    Great pictures, great post.

    Think things on this site (for me anyway) should be not TOO technical and above all should inspire us to go out and shoot.


  • iconico September 22, 2009 06:23 pm

    Excellent article and tips, Véronique, and great shots: go for more!

  • Deirdre September 22, 2009 04:59 pm

    I love your photos! Wow! Tried to subscribe to your blog, but your feed button didn't work for me. Please don't let the negative people get you down.

  • robb September 22, 2009 03:18 pm

    being dare to break the rules might or might not get u a satisfying result.
    overexposed or not, only the photographer knows.
    bcos it's totally up to them.

  • Matt September 22, 2009 03:16 pm

    Fantastic post Veronique! Great insight into the 'secret sauce' of how you get such stunning results. Love your work, more posts please!

  • Angie September 22, 2009 02:58 pm

    Thank you for the inside tips!

  • Becky {Royal Monarch Photography} September 22, 2009 02:23 pm

    Véronique~ I was curious if the next time you do a session like this if you could bring along another photographer. I would love to see the image set up! I <3 natural light and I try to use it AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!

  • Annie September 22, 2009 01:15 pm

    Why are there Haters on this site? There is definitely a place for everyone's opinions, but there is no need to spew negativity just for fun. No one appreciates that.

    I thought the photos were great examples of shooting in natural light. Thanks, Veronique, for your article. I enjoyed reading it.

  • Carri September 22, 2009 12:52 pm

    Thank you for your posting. I am just starting in shooting some friends for fun and love the natural light and settings. I agree that directing the subject is a talent and tips would be greatly appreciated. Your pictures are great and give a 'real' sense of being.

  • geoff September 22, 2009 11:26 am

    Beautiful shots!

    Who cares how much post was done anyway? I dare someone to step outside with a model, in available light, and recreate these great shots, and spend as much time on the post processing as you'd like.
    I'm no pro photographer, but good enough, and definitely good enough at photoshop to know that you simply cannot recreate good lighting in post. And of course, subject matter, poses, makeup, location, etc.

    If anything, using flash is a bit of 'cheating', yes? (and I love flash too, don't get me wrong).

    and yes, don't feed the trolls.

  • Scott Johnson September 22, 2009 09:49 am


  • Sunny September 22, 2009 09:01 am

    I'd loveee to see your reflector set up for some of your images! I love natural light, especially since I'm a poor college student that can't afford to buy any off-the-camera flash.

    Gorgeous work, very inspiring!

  • Greg September 22, 2009 08:12 am

    Scott is a troll in the Internet sence of the word. The best thnig everyone can do to not encourage his behaviour is to ingnore his post.

    They are on every web forum.

  • Véronique da Silva September 22, 2009 07:55 am

    Mark Kenny: Actually there really isn't that much cosmetic work done on the skin at all! Most of these images were done with the collaboration of an awesome make-up artist, Erin Froese: Without a doubt, make-up is key! And as for the eyes, that's all reflector baby! I actually do not do very much manipulating of images (although everything is relative...). I'd love to show you my photoshop files - come over for coffee one day ;)

  • Aleeya September 22, 2009 06:53 am

    I enjoy reading the DPS articles and always learn something. I read it daily. I have seen a lot of rude comments that aren't helpful at all but what I haven't seen is articles from anyone making those rude comments.

  • Ray September 22, 2009 06:43 am

    some posts are not meant to be constructive or even just opinionated.. they're meant to be inflammatory.. best just to not acknowledge them because dialogue is not what those types of posters are after.. they're just looking to get as big of a response from as many people possible.. so don't give it to them

    anyway, amazing picture.. amazing tips..

  • hfng September 22, 2009 06:40 am

    Actually I am avid flash user. But somehow you have convinced me that natural light can make good portraits!! Well done!

  • Greg Easton September 22, 2009 06:26 am

    "I thought the difference between a pro (you) and an novice (me) was knowing what is a good shot."

    Yes, it does. Those are all good shots. You're just an ass unless you can demonstrate that you're better.

  • Mark Kenny September 22, 2009 05:51 am

    These are undeniably good images, but would Veronique consider releasing the layered PSD file, just low resolution so we can see how much post production needed to be done to the pictures? The flesh tones are too smooth and the eyes pop more than I can believe for a "natural light" shoot. So when I assume there's that much work done, I assume more work has happened.

    Sorry, but I work in advertising and I'm a cynic ;-)

  • tad2106 September 22, 2009 04:41 am

    Greg N - thanks will check that one out and Veronique I look forward to your tips on directing.

    As a side note I have always enjoyed popping into DPS and reading all the great tips - I have learnt a lot here. However, what is it with all the sniping and rude comments?? I just don't see the point of these at all. People have taken the time to write these articles and pass on their tips and thoughts and if you don't agree with them that's fine but I have to say I am disgusted at how personal some of the comments can be to the authors.

    I'm a hobby snapper and this site always seemed to be geared to taking away the snobbery and elitist side of photography, making everyone feel welcome with no question being too stupid. But, to me anyway, it is being spoiled by these needless digs and I wouldn't be surprised if the atmosphere here at times puts off lots of beginners from contributing or commenting. I suppose if you can't say something nice and/or constructive don't say anything at all would be my stance. Just felt it needed saying!


  • Susy September 22, 2009 04:40 am

    Great post and fabulous photography. I love how you play with the lighting that is available and I think the photos you posted show how different natural lighting can be interpreted. Speaking of cowards, someone's comments are totally inappropriate.

  • Steven Lilley September 22, 2009 04:28 am

    Lovely post, thank you.

  • Ilan September 22, 2009 04:27 am

    As I'm a big coward when it comes to flash, I always enjoy a good portrait using an available light.
    Here is an example of a photo I took in Barcelona - - A snapshot of two tourists, using only available light. I kinda like it :)

  • Véronique da Silva September 22, 2009 04:19 am

    Hi everyone,

    Ouch is right! Thanks for your comments. I am not quite sure where you are going with your comments Scott? Presumably you did not like the images posted which is completely fine, but the vagueness and spitefulness of your comment is confusing! Staged? Anorexic? I would truly be interested in seeing some comparison shots, perhaps to guide me better next time.

    In my view, available light is available light, indoor or out. I have plenty of indoor images using available light... Many of the images shown above have been tweaked with the use of reflectors or diffusers.

    My next post will be some tips on directing models or non models that works for me.

    Hope I have answered your questions or concerns,


  • Michael Hartman September 22, 2009 03:51 am

    Wow. Scott, you certainly a pro at being rude. If you don't like an article, why don't you just move on instead of acting like a jerk? I think Véronique's shots look great.

  • Major Bokeh September 22, 2009 03:49 am


    Pretty harsh post Scott. I don't completely disagree. Available light to me means indoor with no flash. These are all simple daylight images. Reflectors or not.

    But on the other hand, how about you post a link to some images you claim beat these?

  • Scott Johnson September 22, 2009 03:33 am

    Couldn't find any non anorexic subjects? All these shots seem way too staged. Takes away from the article. Also the poor quality of the shots takes away from the article. I thought the difference between a pro (you) and an novice (me) was knowing what is a good shot.

  • Jane Baker September 22, 2009 03:27 am

    I agree, tips on directing the model would be great! Thanks

  • Greg September 22, 2009 02:51 am

    Great post! I think that making people feel comfortable in front of the camera is 90% of the final image.

    I often bounce light in with a reflector but end up with people squinting unless it is from quite a bit off the shot angle. Do you use reflectors much or do you try to make your shot work without them as much as possible?

  • Aaron September 22, 2009 02:39 am

    Great timing on this article. I was just looking at some great shots the other day and thinking "what do these have that my photos lack?", and when it came down to it, the difference was that the shot was exposed for the subject correctly and the skies were completely blown. Every one of the shots looked amazing too. I'm very interested to try out this technique, since it really lends itself to exellent shots (the sun is a pretty nice light).

  • Heather September 22, 2009 02:37 am

    Thank you for this! I'm a natural light photographer and found some of these tips to be things I never thought of before.

  • Greg Easton September 22, 2009 02:37 am


    There are some really great books on the subject. You might start with Jeff Smith's "Posing techniques for Location Portrait Photography".

  • tad2106 September 22, 2009 01:42 am

    Great tips - thanks - I love the natural light portraits.

    One note for anyone listening and willing - can anyone write an article on how to direct your model (not necessarily a professional one!). I do have a willing daughter to practise on but I'm never sure what to ask her to do/where to look/ what pose to hold etc etc.