Three Items Every Natural Light Portrait Photographer Needs

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 135mm f2 review images (5 of 11)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 3.2

Whether you’re shooting during the summer or winter, the sun’s rays can always be bent to your will when shooting portraits of people outside using natural light. In order to get the most of the sun’s abilities and also take the most advantage of what your camera and lens are capable of, here are some items that we think you really need.

Profoto Deep Translucent Umbrella (Extra Large, 65″)


Umbrellas, besides being originally designed to protect you from the rain, are some of the best light modifiers that you can possible use. The reason why we’re recommending a super large translucent umbrella is because it is designed to diffuse direct lighting. The biggest source of direct lighting that anyone can use is the sun. When you soften the direct light rays of the run with a large translucent umbrella, you get very soft lighting. This soft lighting will generally make a subject look more pleasing and also allow them to open up their eyes when facing the sun. The last thing you want is a squinting subject.

Photographers that would get the most use out of this are natural light headshot photographers. Instead of waiting for an overcast day or looking for natural shadows to work with, you can step right into a bright sunny day, diffuse the sun’s naturally harsh light (at any time of the day) and create an image with beautiful soft light.

We’re specifically recommending Profoto’s because of the build quality, beautiful light output (which we’ve seen to be noticeably better than others) and the fact that it is both deep and large. The fact that it is deep will mean that it will channel the light more intensely but when combined with the natural diffusion properties it will yield specular highlights that will make your image look sharper.

Buy Now: B&H Photo

Pro Tip: The larger the light modifier is, the softer the light will be on your subject in relation to distance from them.

Pro Tip: The larger the light modifier is, the softer the light will be on your subject in relation to distance from them.

Impact Five in One 42′ Reflector


One of the best ways to fill in shadows on a subject if their back is facing the sun is to use a reflector. Specifically, we recommend Impact’s five in one reflector because it gives you a silver, gold, white, soft gold and translucent option. The fact that it is also 42′ large means that it can not only cover a large area but also reflect quite a lot of lighting back onto a subject.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Photos of Katie Catena (9 of 9)

Besides also acting as a way to diffuse the light, one of the best ways to use a reflector like this is to backlight your subject.

The process of backlighting your subject begins with placing the sun behind them. Ideally, you want to place it behind their head to give them a bit of a halo-like rim lighting. Then you’ll need to expose properly for the difference between the shadows on their face and the sun’s rays. Finally, you should add in the reflector to reflect the light back onto their face (and body) then make fine adjustments from there.

We’ve got a whole guide to backlighting a subject right here.

In most instances, you’ll also need to gauge the color of the sun and the natural lighting around you. Shooting during the golden hour? You may want to use the white reflective or silver reflective side. Does your subject have a darker complexion? The gold, soft gold, and silver sides will do a great job reflecting light back onto your subject.

And like the large umbrella we mentioned earlier it can also diffuse lots of incoming light.

Buy Now: B&H Photo

LightCraft Workshop DigiPro HD Vari-ND Filter


So why do you need a Vari-ND filter? Think about this: your lens opens up very wide to f1.2 or f1.4 and you want to shoot with it wide open all the time. However, when you’re out in bright sunlight, your ISO will only go down to 100 and your shutter speed up to only 1/4,000. If this is the case, you need to introduce another exposure variable and in this case it is the vari-ND filter. The LCW DigiPro-HD filter will cut down lots of excessive light to let you shoot wide open in the middle of the day without degrading image quality.

In fact, we use ours quite often–and not only in natural light settings.

Buy Now: B&H Photo

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Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.