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The set up

From: Douglas Kirkland on Photography: Natural Light Portraiture

Video: The set up

You know, we often shoot natural light up here. This is our first, let's say, our upstairs, and what's interesting, as a young photographer, I think probably many people starting in the 60s when I did probably did the same thing. A lot of us were really afraid of strobe light, electronic flash, and so the emphasis was on natural light. Now I passed it and I use all types of light today including hot lights, strobe lights, but my favorite is daylight.

The set up

You know, we often shoot natural light up here. This is our first, let's say, our upstairs, and what's interesting, as a young photographer, I think probably many people starting in the 60s when I did probably did the same thing. A lot of us were really afraid of strobe light, electronic flash, and so the emphasis was on natural light. Now I passed it and I use all types of light today including hot lights, strobe lights, but my favorite is daylight.

That's why we have this room, for example, with skylights everywhere and we work outdoors. So as a complete photographer, you have to be able to use all these resources, all these possibilities, and that's part of the beauty of photography. It's not confined and you shouldn't confine yourself, because anyway, just really look around. You see, you get an atmosphere here and sometimes like we refer to them as beautiful accidents can happen. You get a flare of something into the lens and it can look very alive and very cinematic, a lot of fun. Special.

Now we're going to take you out on the roof where we're making a setup, where we're going to do some more prepping for the beauty shot we're going to be doing in a short while, and just come on out with me. Okay, here is the best light of all I suppose, God's light, and we use that in different ways. I mean there is no simple one only way in photography. I love to watch natural light as this is, because it's ever changing and we also help it by having a device like this, which gives us this beautiful soft light.

This is not a very expensive device. We bought it. They use them at outdoor shows and art shows and things, and we found where to buy them and we acquired this. But you could also just use a white umbrella or something and let the light come through it, the sunlight come through it. So this is cool, and wonderful, and exciting. It has great possibilities. We're going to be working with Natalie up here and we're just preparing everything. But you can also, Natalie can come under the sun and have another wonderful look.

One thing you have to think about when you are doing light like this, it's very tricky-- It's not tricky if you think about it. Is that sometimes you can put your model in light that is too bright for their eyes. Now there are a few tricks you can use. If the person can't really keep their eyes open correctly, you do a count. You say okay, I am going to-- just close your eyes please and when I get to three, please open them, and that's exactly when I'll shoot. So she keeps her eyes closed like that, and you do one, two, three, and she is like that and she can hold it just for a second, maybe if she is looking right into the sun.

In that way you can get some remarkable pictures. Now let me take you back inside, because we're going to show you some of the other things we do. Skylights, light is everywhere and it can be all types of light, and that's again the excitement of photography. So come and let's enjoy some more. Okay, Natalie, I want to just show where I saw you sit in a chair the day before yesterday, and how I fell in love with the idea of working with you in this natural light. So if you sit down here.

The light we're seeing here is coming from the skylight and it's about midday, and why I embrace shooting with natural light like this, truthfully is, there are things, elements that occur, that happen, that might not occur to me as I would move lights around. One of the first things I do when I'll go to a location as I look at the natural light, I look to see what's there, and I will only modify it as necessary.

I will maybe add a fill light or something. But a lot of people don't understand. Light really begins with nature and what's there, and don't interrupt it if you don't need to. Like as Natalie is sitting here, you don't need any other light, but if you do add lights, do it delicately. That is the key and you'll find great cinematographers, great directors of the world, movies, this is frankly what they do. I mean I have lived around this for a long time of entertainment, motion pictures, and fundamentally that for much of the work is the key to it.

I am going to give you a little bit of secret there, if you just think about that. Look at the natural light and when it's right and when it's beautiful, as it is here with Natalie. Don't mock with it. Just use it as it is, but if you make any change, make it delicately and with a reason. Great pictures, great beauty, is not an accident, although it may appear to be. And that's again why I love to work with this lady.

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