Photographer Jordan Matter Teaches You How to Get Great Night Portraits

Photo from Jordan Matter. Used with permission. Be sure to also follow him on Instagram.

Shooting portraits at night has started to become a really big trend again as it was maybe around seven years ago; and photographer Jordan Matter collaborated with Shutterbug to create a video on just how to go about doing that using nothing more than window light. Of course, that means the instructions cater the most to folks who reside in big cities. While many strobists would rather opt for using and creating their own lights, that’s not always possible.

In the video, Jordan talks about the placement of light, looking at how it falls and the subject’s location based on those parameters. Essentially, just think about a softbox or cinematic spotlighting–how those are incredibly important as being able to see light and see how it affects your subject.

Jordan’s tips:

  • Look towards the Street Light
  • Storefront windows can be softboxes
  • Lenses with fast apertures
  • Bright clothing pops at night
  • Light from one side for Rembrandt lighting

Jordan’s tips are honestly fantastic, though in some ways I feel things have changed to cater to specific creative visions. What Jordan doesn’t specifically mention though (and to provide extra value to readers here) is that not everyone is a gorgeous model. To that end, there are different face shapes and if you’re working with someone with more deep set eyes and a forehead that juts forward a bit more (which the model seems to have), you may want them to raise their chin or find a light source that is lower and more directly hitting their face (which is shown later on as using a big window as a softbox). Different lighting situations and poses also work with different body types.

Jordan also thoroughly enjoys using fast lenses–as do we all. He makes great points about using more shallow apertures when shooting at night too. But these days, you sometimes don’t always need the fastest lenses as high ISO output is very good with modern cameras and we live in a day and age where flaws in photos are embraced.