Sun light Portrait Photography: 6 Tricks for Beautiful Results

Natural Light Family portrait Photography: 6 Tips for Beautiful Results

a guide to natural light portraits

If you’re seeking to capture beautiful natural light portrait photography , you’ve come to the right location.

I’m a huge fan of natural light portraiture, and in this article, I discuss my best six ideas to create stunning shots, which includes:

  • The very best type of natural light to produce gentle, evenly lit images
  • How to pick the correct lighting direction (it’s distinct from you might expect! )
  • How to spice up your own portraits with beautiful backgrounds
  • Much more!

Ready to become a family portrait lighting expert? Then let us dive right in, starting with my first tip:

1 . Make sure you are shooting in the right lighting

Natural light works great for portrait photography…

…but if you want stunning results, you need to learn the forms of natural light to use – and the types of natural light to avoid.

You see, some forms of light will create smooth, beautifully lit portraits, while other types of light will certainly produce harsh shadows, uncomfortable highlights, and just an overall bad effect.

So what types of light are best?

I’d recommend working in open shade, which you can find under awnings, on the edges of trees or even buildings, and inside entrances or windows. The idea here is to position your subject in an area that’s shaded, but not too shaded. You want the soft, flattering effect that is produced by shade, but you don’t want to work in heavy darkness.

I positioned these girls approximately 5 feet (1. five meters) inside the doorway of an old timber shed:


You can also work in the evening, starting about an hour just before sunset. The soft lighting of the setting sun will produce a beautiful golden shine, and you can often use cautious sidelighting or backlighting to create a gorgeous result.

However , avoid working on vivid, clear days when the sun is high in the sky. This will cause harsh shadows, plus it will cause your subjects in order to squint!

second . Pay attention to the direction of the gentle

Good-quality gentle is a solid starting point, yet it’s only that: a starting point. If you want to create a great natural-lit portrait, you need to pay attention, not only to the quality of the gentle, but also to the light’s direction .

Personally, I’m keen on partial sidelighting, when the lighting comes across my subject’s encounter at approximately 45 degrees from the nose and approximately 45 degrees above the face area. This produces a beautiful catchlight in the eyes, plus it gives nice shadows that raise the three-dimensionality of the image.

Here, my subject was lit in the upper left:


Portrait photographers tend to avoid frontlight – that is, light that comes from over the photographer’s shoulder and hits the topic directly – because it leads to the subject to squint, plus it flattens the image and robs it of depth.

But you can use backlight, especially when the sun is lower in the sky, to create a lovely result. Just position your own subject so the sun is certainly behind their head or higher their shoulder, expose for that background, then boost the shadows in post-processing (or bring a mirror into the field).

You can also use true sidelight to create a dramatic natural light portrait. Position your subject so the sun hits them directly from the side, after that watch as you get a powerful, shadowy effect!

3. Carefully choose the ideal background

Natural light portrait photography is about over the subject. It’s also in regards to the background, and if you can include the proper background, it’ll instantly elevate your shots.

On the other hand, if you select the wrong background, or if you don’t pay attention to the background when shooting, your photos are bound to turn out bland, boring, or simply downright bad.

So once you find a location with solid light, be sure to seem behind your subject.

I like to avoid high-contrast backgrounds with a mix of sunlight and shade; in my experience, these can become distractions in the final image. I’d also recommend avoiding backgrounds with bright, distracting colors or plenty of busy shapes.

Instead, look for areas that are uncluttered, low in contrast, and darker than the subject’s face. That way, the subject’s face will project forward, as well as the entire shot will appear quite three-dimensional:


If you can find a background that complements the subject’s clothes colors, even better!

And as you become more experienced, you’ll be able to incorporate background bokeh into the scene. For the best results, use a wide lens aperture , a longer lens (e. g., 85mm), and be sure to keep plenty of space between your subject as well as the backdrop.

4. Make sure to include a catchlight

Catchlights refer to small spots of light that appear in the subject’s eye:


And in portraiture, catchlights are essential . Catchlights include life to the shot, increase detail in the eyes, plus enhance image depth. Within my view, an image without a catchlight is hardly an image in any way.

So how would you maintain a catchlight in your portraits?

First, make sure that you always include a bright light roughly in front of the subject matter, be it the sun, a patch of sky, or a mirror.

Second, before you take a photo, check your subject’s eyes for that catchlight glimmer. And if you don’t see one, ask them to turn or tilt their mind until it appears.

Yes, it’s simple, but it makes a large difference. If you can get the catchlight right, in that case your photos will look so much better.

5. Maintain poses simple (but dynamic)

If you’re just starting out in portrait photography, you may be tempted to offer your topics all sorts of fancy posing ideas .

But in my look at, simple is generally better. A number of tips:

  1. Make sure your subject is considering the camera.
  2. Ask your subject to angle their shoulders at about 45 degrees.
  3. If you’re working with multiple topics, ask them to lean their bodies and heads toward one another to produce an emotional connection.
  4. Ask your subject to point their noses subtly to the side (i. e., guarantee the noses don’t point straight at the camera).
  5. Pose the hands and hands to avoid interest. Ask the subjects in order to bend their arms plus clasp their hands jointly. Avoid open fingers and elbows bent at 90 degrees. If it bends, flex it – but naturally.

That way, you can create poses that will look great and add plenty of flow.


6. Shoot when the manifestation is best

Appearance is the most important aspect in a natural light portrait. (In fact, a poorly lit and badly posed portrait with a beautiful expression can trump a technically perfect portrait with an average manifestation any day of the week. )

So if you may capture portraits with beautiful lighting, a beautiful pose, and a great expression, you’ll be on top of the world.

I recommend directing your topics, but carefully. Ask them to grin, ask them to laugh, ask them to appearance pensive, and so on – yet don’t force them to perform expressions that make them really feel uncomfortable, and if they don’t like an expression, just move ahead. More emotional expressions often look better, but do not overdo it. You want mood, but you don’t want dramatic overacting.


Also, make sure that your disposition reflects the expression you are after. If you’re jumping about with your camera, you will not get a soulful look; it just won’t feel natural to the subject! Instead, function the expression you’re looking for. Make sense?

Sun light portrait photography: final phrases

Now that you’ve finished this article, you’re ready to capture some stunning portrait shots.

Just remember the tips I have shared. Focus on the light, the subject, and the background. And obtain some beautiful images!

Now over to you:

Which of these tips is your favorite? Which do you plan to use first? Share your thoughts within the comments below!







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Wayne Radford

Wayne Radford

is a Brisbane centered professional photographer specializing in portraiture. His studio, Radford Picture taking, was established in 1986 after 10 years as an hobbyist photographer. Since the early 90s Wayne has been a popular visitor speaker throughout Australia plus New Zealand and has built an enviable reputation among his peers and clients for his craftsmanship. You can see more of Wayne’s work on his website and learn more on craftsmanship at Portrait Tips and Techniques .

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