Creating a dynamic, well lit portrait does not have to be overcomplicated. In fact, I just may shock you with how simple it actually may be. To illustrate my point, I will walk you through one of my favorite shots – one that took very little technique to create.
1. Place your subject against a dynamic background
In this shot, the city skyline of Portland, Oregon at sunset made for a gorgeous backdrop.
2. Expose for the Background
I wanted to capture the light sparkling through the buildings, which meant that my exposure would be set for my background and not my subject. Without another light source, this typically wouldn’t work – you would have to expose for your subject and this would leave your background overexposed. With another light, it suddenly becomes very accomplishable.
3. Light your subject
Using your secondary light source, be it on camera flash or off camera flash, strobe or even flashlight, light your subject. You will need the light to be fairly strong to balance the exposure of the background.
4. Set your camera
To accomplish this shot, I made my aperture small – F13. This enabled the sun to appear like a starburst as it set amidst the city. My shutter speed was at 1/100, primarily so I could use my external flash. And of course, there was enough light all around to use the ISO at 100.
5. Position yourself
To be completely honest, the most difficult part about this shot was positioning myself to get the sun bursting through the buildings, and over my subjects shoulder. The angles had to be “just so” in order to achieve this look.
All in all, this shot took maybe 2 minutes to set up and capture. With practice, your dynamic portraits can also be attained just as simply!