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Photo Assignment: Natural Light Portraits is an interactive video course, where participating photographers can have their work reviewed. Professional shooter Derrick Story shows how to capture beautiful, illuminated portraits with natural daylight, and shares tricks for how to get fantastic shots even when the light is not so great. Derrick teaches how to work with photo disc light modifiers to bounce in light to areas that need it. He also explains how to use shade, when it's available, for a completely different look. At the end of the course, Derrick describes how to upload photos to Flickr for review and comment.
Natural Light Portrait Photo Assignment Flickr Discussion Group
Well, we have moved from working out in the bright sunlight to open shade. We are actually under a tree now. Working in open shade is great for portrait work. There are just a few things you have to keep in mind. The first thing that you might notice, especially on a bright day, is that the background is very bright, much brighter than the light falling on the model. The way you compensate for this, or the way that you deal with this, is to change your camera's light meter mode from evaluative that's measuring everything and will tend to underexposure your subject because it's taking into account this bright background. Move it to spot meter.
Spot meter allows you just to measure part of the frame so you can put that meter right there on the model's skin and measure her tones. Now, in this case, I still have my exposure compensation set at about negative one half, negative one because even though I am metering off her skin, I don't want the camera to overexpose it, because she has darker skin. The switching from evaluative meter to spot metering will allow you to work with this difference that you have between a very bright background and the more darker shades on your model.
The next thing that you want to keep in mind is that the light is cooler in the shade. What I mean by that, the color temperature is more blue, and blue tends not to be a good tone for portrait shooting. So take a look at your white balance setting. It's probably on auto. When you are shooting in the open shade, you probably want to change it to either cloudy or shade. Both will warm up the shot a little bit and give you more natural skin tones when you are shooting under a tree, in the patio, any area like that where you are not out in the direct sunlight.
So go from auto to either cloudy or shade. Now, you notice that I still have this nice, soft background. But sometimes when you are working in these extreme lighting conditions, in program mode, which I have been for this whole shoot, you'll notice that your aperture may start to stop down to 8 or to 11, which gives us more detail in the background. It's not necessarily a good thing for portrait shooting, unless you want that. Now, you can continue to control your aperture while staying in program mode.
There is this nifty little trick on almost every digital SLR called Program Shift. And you usually just rotate the mode dial, somewhere near the shutter button. That allows you to stay in program mode, but you can rotate the dial so that the aperture opens back up. So you can go from 8 to 5.6, to 4, to even 2.8, if that's what your lens will accommodate. What the camera will do, it will compensate, and it will set the right shutter speed for that aperture setting while you are still in program mode.
So if you don't want to fiddle with switching to different modes, such as aperture, priority or manual, remember that you can still control the aperture in program mode using Program Shift. It's a very handy little tip. Another reminder is once you kind of solve the technical problems, remember you know you are an artist also. This is what I love about photography. Its both art and science combined into one activity. So remember to try different poses. Don't just work with the same pose all the time.
Have your model, your subject, your friend, try different things because later on when you are reviewing these shots on your computer, you might discover a new look that you didn't even know existed before. So have the model try different poses, experiment a little bit once you are comfortable technically, and you might discover something really fabulous and new. So shooting in open shade is really a terrific way to go for natural light portraits. Keep these few tips in mind, and I think you will have some very successful shots that you are proud of and will want to share with other people.
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