A great way to find light is to harness sunlight. Sunlight by nature is harsh and might not be flattering to a subject. However, you can harness sunlight and bounce it so it is more diffused. In this movie, author Levi Sim discusses where you can find great natural light when shooting a simple portrait.
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- Let me show you some great ways to find excellent natural light, the kind of light that's soft and indirect, and very flattering to our people. We need to use sunlight for our natural light as often as possible. But again, we don't want it to be direct sunlight because that casts a very hard shadow and is unflattering and shiny and just offers too much contrast between light and dark to really work with. So we need to find good, soft, natural light.
We can always find great light at the edge of hard light. What does that mean? In a window, we find sunlight shining in. In a porch, we'll find sunlight shining in. And right at the edge of the brightest light is a really great spot to place our subject and find excellent natural light. So porches, windows, and then improvised porches and windows are three great places to find excellent natural light.
A window has light coming in from the side. We've also got curtains we can use to shape the light, restrict how much is coming through, and we can use that to help soften the light shining on our portrait subjects also. Porches are another great spot to find natural light. The porch is kind of like a tall window, but it's also covered overhead and keeps the direct sunlight from shining on somebody even though we're outdoors with them. When we're using porches, there's a couple of other special considerations.
Usually, we need to pay attention to what's shining into the porch. Are there cars parked on the street out here? Are there bright windows reflecting light back in? Those things can help light our person, but they can also make them squint. So be sure to position your own self in the same spot where you want your person to sit, and kind of look around and see what's gonna make them squint, and maybe point them slightly to a different direction. I can also improvise a porch or a window using my five-in-one reflector.
It's big, and I can use it to block light. We can stand out in bright sunlight, hold the reflector overhead, and then use other objects around us, like a car or a building, to reflect light back into our subject's face. Whether you use an actual window or a real porch, or use a reflector to redirect shadows and light, we're always trying to mimic the light coming in from these big, soft sources. Even if I use a flash in the studio, I always put it to the side, and I make it big and soft so that it's very flattering on my subjects.
So look for windows and porches, and you'll always find a great spot to make a natural light portrait.
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- Making great light for a portrait in practically any situation
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- What accessories make portraiture better
- How to talk to help people feel comfortable in a portrait