Photography Cheat Sheet: Making the Most Out of Natural Light

Want to shoot better natural light portraits? With the tips from today’s photography cheat sheet, you should be able to make the most out of different natural lighting conditions.

When done right, shooting in natural light can yield some gorgeous results, especially for portraits. But the main challenge with it is it’s constant light, so you have to make adjustments and adapt your shooting style and settings to account for that. Today’s photography cheat sheet especially addresses that with some tips on two styles you’ll typically use in natural light portrait photography.

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Natural Light Photography Tips from National Geographic Photographer Bob Holmes

If you prefer working with natural light for your photography, you will definitely pick up some great tips from National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes.

As basic as it is, shooting in natural light (or available light) remains popular among photographers because of its simplicity, convenience, and beautiful results. Many photographers prefer to work solely with natural light over using lighting equipment — and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you can produce great photos and achieve your intended results with this method, then, by all means, go with it. But, it requires a lot of practice and learning to be able to make the most of it. You have to be able to understand how light creates and affects your image. National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes, who only does natural light photography, gives a bunch of great tips on how to get stunning photos in this method.

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Claudia Paul Committed to Shooting a Unique Portrait Weekly for a Year

All images by Claudia Paul. Used with permission.

“My personal trick to keep me on track was to use Facebook as a tool for accountability,” states photographer Claudia Paul about her Wednesday Portraits series. “I publicly announced the project and the goal to post a new portrait every Wednesday. This way I would feel like a fraud if I didn’t deliver.” Claudia Paul is a German artist working and residing in New York City as a commercial photographer. She frequently dedicates herself to non-profit work, and is always developing new personal projects independent of her paid client work. She created a year-long challenge for herself: create a new portrait every Wednesday. In the process, she developed a beautiful collection of images while exercising and strengthening her creative muscle and expanding her skills as an artist. Below we explore the project, Wednesday Portraits.

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Three Natural Light Setups to Try for Gorgeous Boudoir Photography

Whether you prefer to work with natural light, or don’t have studio lights yet, this boudoir photography tutorial will give you some great ideas.

Working with light to create mood is a significant component of beautiful boudoir photography. Some photographers prefer to do this by shooting in locations with gorgeous natural light. Others prefer working this way to make the most of available light and minimize their shooting setup. If this sounds like something you want to try, let this video tutorial by Los Angeles-based Michael Sasser be your guide on three ways to shoot with natural light for beautiful boudoir portraits.

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You’re Doing it Wrong: How to Shoot Flash Photography During the Day

The key to using a flash on camera during the day is all about power output.

When you think about using a flash, you’re probably thinking about only using it at night where you need more light. But, believe it or not, the best time to use a flash is during the day. It essentially helps you get a better histogram reading by filling in details all across the board. It’s also much better than using constant lights.

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5 of Our Favorite Capture One Styles Packs (Presets)

If you’re looking for presets in your transition to Capture One, here are some of our favorites.

If you’ve transitioned to Capture One and away from the slow processing speeds and sluggish workflow of Lightroom, then you’re probably missing one big thing: presets. If you’re a working photographer then you know presets help speed up your workflow and often help provide signature looks to the work you put out. While Capture One also absolutely gives you better color, we figured we’d share some of our favorite Styles Packs.

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How to Master Backlighting for Natural Light Portrait Photography

Want the dreamy look that remains popular in portrait photography today? You might want to learn how to master backlighting when shooting in natural light.

If you hold a preference for natural light portrait photography, you might find backlighting as one the effective techniques to use for creating dreamy images. It’s not as simple as just shooting outdoors with the sun behind your subject, but a technique with the goal of a moody yet balanced look for portraits. In this quick video tutorial, Sydney-based fashion photographer Julia Trotti show us how it’s done and we can master it. Backlighting is just one of the techniques at your creative arsenal once you choose to do portrait photography in natural lighting. It gives your photos that dreamy and flattering look that many photographers are going for fashion editorials, wedding photography, and even themed portraits. With Trotti’s tips, you can start experimenting with this technique in no time.

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An Introduction to Shooting Portraits in Natural Light

Don’t have a strobe or not sure how to use one? You can still create some good portraits using natural light

Photographing portraits using natural light as the sole light source have become such a rage lately that some photographers have branded themselves as “Natural Light Only Photographers.” While you can certainly create some stunning images with the proper use of only natural light, understanding how light behaves and being able to harness light in all of its forms, natural or otherwise, will help shape you into a better, more complete photographer.

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This Photography Meme May Trigger a Certain Type of Photographer

If you’re a photographer, get read to either laugh or feel very triggered.

There’s a funny meme going around on Facebook and now Instagram that is essentially harmless, but is so close to the hearts of many different photographers. It’s a play off of an old Batman comic where Robin is being slapped by Batman. It has been used for a number of different subjects, but the most recent is with regards to natural light photographers. Now, we’ve spoken about this subject many times in the past, and have been met with opposing criticisms as well as praise. The majority of us are very pro team “make your own lighting and use all available lights.” And many times, the term “Natural Light Photographer” is often just seen as a crutch.

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Creating Stunning Portraits Using Beautiful Golden Hour Light

While you don’t need the golden hour to get the best portraits, it surely does help.

For the uninitiated, Golden Hour describes the short, fleeting period of time just after the sun had risen or immediately before it is about to set. During this momentary window, the sun appears very close to the horizon and produces a quality of available light that tends to be beautifully diffused and typically embodies a warmer tone than usual. Portrait photographers, particularly those that rely heavily on natural light, often prefer to photograph their subjects during these ephemeral minutes because of the beautiful quality the light imparts onto their subjects. We have a wealth of tutorials here on The Phoblographer that cover topics such as portrait subject posing as well as how to best interact with your subjects to bring out the expressions you’re looking for, but for the purposes of this particular tutorial, we are going to focus specifically on the challenges that you will likely come across when photographing portraits during Golden Hour and what you can do to combat them.
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How to Edit Underexposed Natural Light Portraits on Lightroom and Photoshop

If you’re shooting a lot of natural light portraits, you might want to get some editing tips from this workflow tutorial if you like underexposing to retain details.

Whether you’re shooting more natural light portraits by choice or because of equipment constraints, it’s worth learning how to edit your photos from a variety of shooting conditions. Today, we’ve got a workflow video tutorial for you in case you often underexpose your photos to get more detail out of the scene or background.

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Please Stop Calling Yourself a Natural Light Photographer and Learn How to Light

To light, or not to light, that is the question.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard someone say, “I’m a natural light photographer,” there would be enough money in my bank account to take off three months out of each year to travel for the fun of it. To the uninitiated, the proclamation that one only shoots in natural light may sound like a badge of honor, but to most working professional photographers, this concept is confounding at best and downright ridiculous at worst. Be that as it may, there is a growing legion of photographers who have embraced this “natural light only” mantra due either to their inexperience with utilizing lighting equipment, or out of some misguided notion that the “natural light look” is somehow superior. What if I were to tell you that all light, natural or otherwise, behaves identically regardless of the source, provided that you are photographing someone on planet Earth? If you understand principles of lighting and how it behaves, you can make artificial light sources look like natural light, and turn day into night, or vice versa. Being able to shoot 24 hours a day means that I can adapt to the needs of my clients as well as challenges posed by mother nature, which translates to more billable hours and more income. Sounds a lot better than only being able to photograph client work while the sun is out, doesn’t it?

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Three Modern Day Masters of Natural Light Street Photography

Ask a photographer what the most important aspect of a good photo is, and they will tell you it’s good light. 

Lighting will make or break a photograph. You could have the most interesting subject in the world, but if it isn’t lit well then you may as well forget about it. From softboxes to strobe lights; flashguns to Rotalights, we have come with wonderful ways of ensuring our sensors capture the best possible images. Unlike manufactured light, however, ambient light is much trickier to take control of. It often requires being a tad more creative and working with what you’ve got. That, overall, demands an adaptable mind that enjoys playing around. With the great work being produced underneath the earth’s sun – let’s take a look at the modern-day masters of natural light.

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Seven Reasons Flash Is Superior to Natural Light for Portrait Photography

Do you want more or less control over your lighting when photographing portraits?

With the number of portrait photographers proclaiming that they only shoot in natural light perplexingly on the rise, one begs to question why someone wouldn’t want to have full control over how they lit their portrait subjects. This is something that photographer Craig Beckta addressed in his latest video, where he shares the seven reasons why he believes flash is better for portraits than natural light.

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Golden Hour is Truly Your Friend for Natural Light Portraiture

For a simple yet lovely natural light portrait shoot session outdoors, you’d need an eye for detail, good gear, and good weather. 

If you’re planning to conduct a natural light portrait shoot sometime soon, you don’t have to look any further than this behind-the-scenes video by Toronto-based photographer Lee Zavitz of the YouTube channel Zed Pro Media for some inspiration. In his vlog, we can see Lee and his model Keira making the trip to a nearby park where cherry blossoms were in full bloom for an impromptu shoot. The only cameras he used were a Fuji X-H1 and a Sony A7III.

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How to Shoot Moody Natural Light Portraits

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how you could create moody portraits, courtesy of photographer Ben Chambers.

We’ve featured a ton of tutorials on taking natural light portraits by many talented photographers here on the website. Today, we’re adding one more. If you’ve always wanted to perfect shooting moody natural light portraits, this tutorial by Australian wedding photographer Ben Chambers of Bach Photography is for you. In Ben’s 12 minute-long tutorial, uploaded on his YouTube channel, he showed the process of how he created a particular portrait shot, as seen above and below. He took the photo with a 5D Mark IV and Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art Lens but said that similar results can be achieved with an APS-C camera with a 35mm prime lens.

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See Tatyana Zadorin’s Quick Demo of a Natural Light Outdoor Portrait Shoot

Screenshot image from the video by Tatyana Zadorin.

Using only the bare necessities, photographer Tatyana Zadorin was able to pull off a pretty cool natural light outdoor portrait shoot when she traveled to South Carolina, USA to visit her family.  The seven-minute behind-the-scenes video titled Natural Light OUTDOOR Portrait Photography – Behind the Scenes mostly showed Tatyana demonstrating how she made use of her Canon 5D Mark III and a couple of lenses Canon lenses with 85mm and 35mm focal lengths. She also offered the settings that she shot her photos with for those who want to emulate her images.

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Quick Tips on Shooting Natural Light Portraits Indoors

Screenshot image from the video by Marc Klaus

Have you ever tried shooting natural light portraits indoors? It’s always worth a try because it could be a pretty fun and educational exercise, considering doing so would force you to work with whatever light you got to produce the best possible images you could.

Shooting indoors using available light and minimal gear and props is pretty easy, as you would observe in photographer Marc Klaus’ seven-minute behind-the-scenes video. Throughout this clip, you’d see that his models actually had more outfit options than he had cameras and accessories combined.

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Natural Light vs Off Camera Flash for Outdoor Portrait Photography

Learn how to work with both natural lighting and off camera flash outdoors in this quick portrait photography tutorial.

Spotted a picture-perfect location for some portrait photography projects and practice? Working with natural light isn’t your only option to get some impressive shots. In this quick video, find out what you can achieve with both natural light and off camera flash, and decide which look you want.

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Rebeca Camino Reimagines Futuristic Fashion Portraiture in Ethereal “Vacuum”

All images by Rebeca Camino. Used with Creative Commons permission.

When we speak of futuristic fashion portraiture, we typically expect it to be dominated by neon colors and/or space-themed elements. The moody works of Alexander Berdin-Lazursky and Elizaveta Porodina’s Neon Night are perfect examples. Once in a while, however, we come across some works that challenge this tried and tested formula, often with stunning results. It can be as stylized as Colin Anderson’s stylish Mission to Mars, or as simple yet ethereal as Vacuum by Rebeca Camino.

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Rebeca Camino Makes Dreamy Conceptual “Illusion” Natural Light Portraits

All images by Rebeca Camino. Used with Creative Commons permission.

A significant portion of portrait photographers hold a strong preference for natural light portraits over studio setups, for a good reason. It allows you to shoot right at the comfort of your home or on location without the need to set up any equipment other than your camera. There’s also often more than one way to play with the available light, as we’ll see in this beautiful set of creative portraits by Spanish photographer Rebeca Camino.

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