Natural light portraits and photography has always been the first step and to-go for everyone who steps into photography. Be it architecture, landscape or portraits of friends, most of us started with natural light as the main source of light for our photographs.
After stepping into artificial lighting setup and studios, the game completely changed. I realized there is so much detail we do not see when we are not using strobes or flashguns. However, that made me realize that while shooting portraits, there is a lot of skin marks and rough tones we DO NOT want to show either and we Photoshop them out in the post-production.
Another reason I missed natural light is that I could make an enormous softbox by just adding a white sheet on my bedroom window. That gave a much softer look and light for my portraits than studio light.
Third: When you shoot natural light, the look and temperature you get are natural as well. That is more relatable to the human eye than a flashy look. Do we ever see people walking around with that flashy studio makeup and 4 lights around them? No. With natural light, we create what’s real and true. For character (and soul) portraits I decided to start shooting some natural light (+reflector) again. The makeup must always be light and minimum (as per your taste too) because again, you want to achieve the most natural (and beautiful) look.
So during this session, below are some portraits I did with natural light only. Made me realize, there so much and so many types of beauty shots we can do just with one reflector and some sunlight coming in.
In above photos, I am using a reflector (silver) as a fill or mostly for the catchlight in the eye and the window on the right as the main light source. We kept the makeup really minimal as we were planning to achieve a very soft look. This setup you can easily do at home. I used a mid-level Nikon SLR and did some contrast and color fix in Lightroom and Photoshop in the post.
BTS of the third shot (in the first picture)
Shooting in natural light doesn’t always mean that you can only shoot soft and natural look. To create a bit more glamorous and magazine-style look, we tweaked the makeup little bit and made a composite with a different background, matching the outfit color of the model. Below is the result.
Using Reflector + Natural light source + Mid-range Nikon SLR
Creating tanned skin with warmer tones
We often see the tanned skin tones and grainy texture in portraits that are done in direct sun or with additional studio strobes. Close to that result is possible in natural-only light with a use of some toner applied on the skin along using gold side of the reflector to bounce the light off from natural light source on to the subject. Below is another example, shot in natural light with gold reflector bouncing the light on the subject.
The skin was retouched in photoshop to add some grain and texture to the skin and smoothen the overall tones. Almost no makeup was applied except for the eye makeup. In most cases, to achieve the tanned look a toner can be applied to the skin however my subject here had a nice-toned skin where we didn’t require to apply any toner.
There are couple of other examples of how to achieve almost any look, be it glamour, corporate portraits or fashion; just by using natural light and reflector. If you are someone who has just stepped into photography, natural light + reflector would be a good start for you to not only start creating stunning portraits in a low budget but also to understand how light works on different body forms and situations.
Give it a try and for any questions feel free to write here in comments or on my Instagram. You can see more of my work (and more photos of these models) on my Photography portfolio site. Very soon I’ll be sharing more behind the scenes and tutorials from my shoots, till then keep shooting and creating more natural light portraits.