How to Nail Beautiful Portraits When Shooting in Natural Light

Getting beautiful portraits in natural light is one of the first things you can start mastering today with this quick tutorial. 

Whether you’ve just started learning how to shoot portraits or a little further into it, working with natural light is one of the most useful tricks to have as a portrait photographer. It may not always be as simple as pointing your camera on your subject beside a window, but this quick tutorial by Mark Wallace for Adorama is easy enough to get you started.

Natural light is actually one of the best lighting setups that can give you great results. It’s simple and doesn’t cost a thing, so it’s perfect for practicing portraits, even in the comfort of your own home. All you need is your camera, your model, and a well-lit spot beside a window. Watch the video tutorial below to find out how to use natural light to your advantage.

Mark said that we need “react” to natural light when working with it, since it’s our only light source and we can’t really move it around. So, instead, we move around with our cameras or position our models to where the light is.

To be able to shoot handheld and move around his model, Mark used the following settings on his camera; a wide open aperture of f1.4 to let as much of the light in and create a creamy look to the out of focus areas; shutter speeds of around 1/60 – 1/125 to reduce shake, and 400 ISO to make sure he can work with those shutter speeds. Consider those your basic settings and tweak as the light changes during the day. As for the gear, he used a Leica M10 with a 50mm f1.4 Summilux.

Mark noted that we need to pay attention to the direction of the light and make sure that our model is always facing towards it. This is so the face and eyes are always properly illuminated. But, feel free to experiment on posing your model and play around with where the light hits to create dramatic results.

Another thing to note is that Mark worked in a room with glazed or frosted windows, which made some really nice diffused light that illuminated his subject nicely and evenly. If you’re working with clear glass windows, the light often comes out stronger, which could give you some beautiful and dramatic lighting when you shoot during the Golden Hour. Go ahead and experiment!

Want to get more tips on working with natural light? We have tons of resources for you to check out!

Screenshot image from the video by Adorama