Geoff Guthro Photography | Natural Light Portrait

Natural Light Portrait

September 06, 2017  •  1 Comment

You might have read or heard me describe things about Natural Light Photography or Photographers in previous posts. Things like, a natural light photographer might not be comfortable with using light modification or, you can make a portrait better with light modification. All that is true to some extent, but it does depend on the situation at the time. There are many things that contribute to reasons for using modification or not. Basically, if you understand photography, then you should be able to take great photos period. But.... by understanding light, then you can take really great photos that will separate you from the pack so to speak. You can now create a photo or scene, with or without a light modifier. Light modification helps or inspires creativity when the natural light available is (A). not enough, (B). too much, or (C). control is needed in the required photo. The angle of a harsh light across the face can surely ruin a good portrait. Not enough light can make for a poorly exposed photo, especially if your trying to get good background or composition for a portrait. AKA. Sunset with the sun behind the subject or bright sunlight mid-day. So lets say you don't have any light modifiers in your bag or on your person, what then? Recently, I went out to achieve some kind of portrait. No mods, just natural light, period. What ever the day brings. We went out for a walk through the forest but not with out me promising lunch. Definitely a motivator to get a subject. LOL. The day was mostly cloudy but with sunny periods. The changing light was unpredictable as it was quite windy and that affected the cloud to sun cover, hence the changing type of light.

We found some cover from the sun with the shade of a near by tree. You can see in the above photo the dappled sun on her face. The location is not flattering around her hair line top as also down her nose and across her right eye. To me it looks as if it is almost burned in post LR (lightroom). Also, I felt that the blur of this particular background was creating too much separation, looking somewhat green screened. In this situation, I could have stopped down some on my aperture, to diminish some of the bokeh in the background. Quickly the sun diminished and I captured this below. Again, the separation is too great for my liking for this background.

I could have also cropped some in post, or just went closer and go portrait for camera orientation. This would help but I felt the background would still be somewhat un-interesting. Both above photo's were shot @ ISO100, shutter speed 1/800, F3.5 aperture. The light changed to a nice soft diffused type of light. For some reason today our subject was co-operating and actually posing for the camera so we went to the lake for another shot.  

The photos are nice but they were not what I was looking for in a natural light portrait. I tend to shoot more headshot, so I guess I was looking for more of an actual studio type feel. As we move further I noticed some foliage with a bit of colour that I felt was perfect for a portrait with natural light. The light was still diffused by a thin cloud cover creating a nice soft light similar to a shoot through umbrella or some diffused light source. The larger the light source the softer the light. Even though the sun is a large light source, it is hard as it is very far away making it look small. The thin cloud cover provided the diffusion making it soft and seem larger. 


I decided to open up my aperture to create and even softer look with the focus on her face. Not much else is in focus and doesn't need to be. The key here is to get the eyes in focus as the (DOF) depth of field comes into play. I was using my Nikon 85mm 1.8 med-telephoto prime lens (glass) for this session. The above and below photo were shot @ ISO100, Shutter Speed 1/400, Aperture  F1.8

So by understanding light, whether it be artificial or natural, in this case natural with no artificial modification, I'm able to produce a nice Natural Light Portrait. The look of softness in the photo is created by the camera's F1.8 aperture setting combined with the soft natural light provided by the diffused sun with cloud cover.

For more on understanding light checkout this video by Karl Taylor  Types of Light



This is why any pictures Robyn takes of herself at home are in front of the bay window on a sunny day haha. Just the right amount of light.
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