Portraits in natural light

There are many advantages of shooting portraits in natural light. Simplicity, less equipment and relaxed subjects are just a few. Take a look at these examples and read the following points to help you get the best out of your photography.

Chantal with Lantern, Julia Cleaver

Julia Cleaver has captured this portrait during the ‘golden hour’ resulting in the sun very low in the sky producing warm tones and horizontal shadows. See how Julia has the sun shining directly at the camera but diffused through trees and possible a bit of cloud to avoid lens flare.

Positioning the sun here provides a beautiful ‘rim light’ that strip of light outlining the model's face. When shooting into the sun with one of the Auto modes you may have to add exposure compensation so the shadow side of your model's face isn’t too dark.

La Mirada Adulta, Jordi Mas Alvarez

Jordi has wisely positioned the subject in the shade of a building away from harsh direct overhead sun for this travel portrait. When shooting portraits in the middle of the days it's best to avoid direct sunlight which produces an unflattering light and harsh shadows around the eyes. He has placed the subject at the edge of the frame and included interesting texture of the stone buildings and steps. This places the picture and adds some context to the location in which it was shot.

In the above examples you can see the effect the light source has on the images. Shooting under shade produces soft, flattering light. Waiting until the sun is low in the sky and placed behind the subject can add interesting backlighting to a portrait image. And the light is less harsh and warmer.

The direction and source of natural light will have a huge effect on your portrait images. Setting your camera to one of the creative modes is a great way to take control of your camera and gives you greater flexibility to influence how your images turn out. Learning how to control your exposure with exposure compensation is a vital tool when shooting natural light portraits, try overexposing when shooting towards the sun and underexposing when using direct light, play with these settings until you reach your desired result.

Buongiorno, Mr Simone Lepri

Natural light, especially indoor light, can mean low light levels. Initially shooting in low light can pose a few problems, such as poor focus and too low shutter speeds resulting in unsharp images. To overcome these first try improving your light source, move your subject into a window or doorway to maximise the amount of light.

Using Aperture Priority mode and selecting the largest aperture (smallest f/ number) to let more light into the camera. Keeping your ISO high will allow a higher shutter speed to be used and avoid camera shake.

There is a range of Canon lenses designed to help you take better portraits, whatever light you are shooting in, all available in the Canon Store.

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