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8 Tips for Making Natural Light Portraits

Natural Light Portraits

Without a doubt, natural light is the most powerful and most important tool any photographer can have. Fortunately, we all get it for free; you only need to learn how to use it to start producing stunning photos. Another great thing with natural lights is that they are much easier to work with compared to studio portraits. Moreover, natural light portraits are much cheaper; you won't have to spend on flashes, strobes or light modifiers.

Understanding how light works is very important for every photographer. Once you master it, you can start producing better images. The great thing with working with natural lighting in photos is that they give off a pure vibe that lacks in artificial lighting.

Natural lighting is great. Take for instance the lighting of the sun which can create many stunning spectrums of colors throughout the day that will help you get beautiful images. However, they can as well be tricky to work with. Hence, you will need to understand how to work with natural light and the camera settings that will help you get a stunning portrait. In the next few paragraphs, you will learn some proven tips professional photographers use in making natural light portraits.

Natural Light Portraits

1. Choose the Perfect Location

Before you choose a location, you will need to find out the purpose of the photography, is it a family portrait, actor's headshot, or for business promotion? Figuring the purpose of the shoot will help you gather the materials you need and the perfect location for the shoot.

Now you know the purpose of the shoot, you should think of the perfect location, maybe somewhere scenic with a lot of spaces by the lake side or park. You can as well shoot in the midst of traffic, crowds or busy street with lots of architecture.

2. Determine the Time to Shoot

If you plan on getting the best image quality, you must put a lot of thoughts on the time of the day to shoot. I do not recommend shooting in the middle of the day, from experience, this time is always very difficult to work with because of the bright direct sunlight which will make it difficult for you to avoid over-exposing your images.

Its best you target to shoot earlier or later in the day. Hence, the perfect time to work with natural light will be until mid morning or after mid afternoon. Shooting during these periods will give you enough light to work with but the light won't be too strong to leave your images over-exposed.

Another trick is to work on cloudy day. This may sound difficult; however, the colds will serve as a diffuser and gives you a consistent light source you can work with throughout the day.

3. Relax the Model and Work on the Right Position

It is pretty important that you keep your model comfortable and relax. Have a chat with her and let her know what you need for the shoot to be a success.

You will need to make a lot of adjustment to the model's position during the shoot. This is where studio shoot has advantage over natural light source. You can adjust the height and angle of the light source to meet your requirements in studio shoot but this is not possible when working with natural lights.

Think of a suitable place you model can stand and work without the sun ruining your picture. It is important that your model don't look directly towards the sun, this could lead to watery eyes. A good trick to use is to have your model turn 360 degrees slowly while you follow her as she turn, this will help you observe the change in lighting to get the best positioning that works for the shoot.

Natural Light Portraits

4. Try Window Shots

Have you try window shots? You will definitely love it if you do it well. This involves employing the sunlight through a window to light a portrait shot. The great about the soft light through the window is that they act as the perfect highlight for a strong and moody image. This works bests if you have the soft light cast on only one side of the model's face while leaving the other side of the face in shadow.

To get the best window shot, you will need to stay very close to the window so you will have more light to work with and a stronger contrast that will be between the light and the dark. You can use curtain or blind to diffuse some of the light if the light coming through the window is too bright.

Camera Settings

5. Set camera to Manual

When it comes to working with natural light, I will recommend that you try and get total control over the settings of your camera. You can easily achieve this by switching the setting from automatic mode to manual mode. Using manual mode will give you total control and help you get the image the way you imagined it.

6. Shutter Speed

To get a beautiful photo when working with natural light, you need to set the shutter speed to a minimum of around 1/100th of a second or faster. The reason for this is to avoid getting blurry images of you subject who is mostly likely to be in constant movement most of the time.

Natural Light Portraits

7. Use Large Aperture

You will need to use the largest aperture possible when working with natural lights; this will help you get a soft background blur. The ideal aperture to use in this case is f/1.8 but f/4 would also work. If you want to get aperture larger than f/1.8, you will need to spend a lot of money on such lenses.

8. Use Lowest ISO

For the ISO settings, you will need to use the lowest possible option since your shutter speed is 1/100th of a second or faster. If the lighting conditions are low, you can get a fast shutter by adjusting the ISO using the light meter in your camera.


Natural lights portraits are the best, I hope you give these tips here a try; you will definitely love the result. If you are not sure you can do it, get a friend to act as your model and try to work the tips on him. You will get it right after trying out few times.

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