How to Achieve Great Portraits in Open Shade Lighting

Here’s how you can take advantage of open shade lighting to get beautiful portraits.

Whether you’re not yet well-versed in studio lighting setup or simply prefer shooting in natural light, here’s an easy tutorial that will help you get stunning results. Just look for a location with open shade lighting and you’re halfway there! Mark Wallace demonstrates how you can work with this simple but clean lighting for your next natural light portrait sessions.

In a video tutorial on Adorama TV, Mark showed why he absolutely loves open shade lighting for shooting portraits in natural light. All you need is a balcony facing a bright, hard light but also has a shade above it. Go ahead and watch him work with this simple and beautiful lighting for portrait work in the short video below:

That was really easy and convenient, don’t you think? It’s much like having a big soft box with directional light at your disposal. As he explained in the tutorial, the best setup for this natural lighting is to have white wall that you can face your model against. This way, the light coming from the balcony will bounce off the wall and illuminate your subject, even if you have them face against the light (with the balcony behind them).

Now, as Mark also explained, your camera’s metering will most likely expose the background correctly but underexpose your subject. To work around that, he suggests going for a wide open aperture like f/1.4 and a fast shutter speed to overexpose the background on purpose. The results are beautiful, with the model crisply lit and set against a soft, overexposed background.

Want more photography tips and tricks? Visit and subscribe to Adorama TV on YouTube for more tutorials from expert photographers like Mark Wallace.

Screenshot image from the video