Ideas to Modify Natural Light for Portrait Photography

Every photographer loves that soft white light that pours in through a single window. Its diffuse glow seems to make anything in its path magically photogenic. Whether it’s the slits of light through a pair of barely open shutters or that golden luminescence that fills the airplane cabin at 30,000 ft., naturally diffused light is among the most beautiful types of light you will encounter. In this video, fashion photographer Lindsay Adler shows how you can modify natural light to create even more stunning images:

Seeing as it’s already magical, you don’t really need to do a lot to create great images with naturally diffused light. But if you’re looking to creating something more dramatic, try a few of these tricks:

  • Create a Catch Light – A catch light can put life into an otherwise dull head shot. To create a catch light, you simply need to capture a reflection of a light source in your subject’s eyes. You can do this using a reflector or flash or any other light source. Just take care not to blind your subject.
  • Watch the Facial Features – As you can see in the photo below, shadows are cast around the model’s cheek bones and jaw line. This creates a much more dramatic look and keeps the model from looking flat.
  • Block Off Light – Sometimes you need to cut light off instead of adding it. Special flags are made for photographers for blocking off areas of light. You can also use black foam core, like Adler, to absorb some of the incoming light.
  • Think About Direction – Having your subject face straight at the light source will give you a very flat look as there will be little to no shadows. Moving your subject (or yourself) to the side will put you in a position to capture both the highlights and shadows. It may take some moving around to figure out what looks best, but you’ll definitely want some degree of contrast in your lighting.
creative natural white light soft diffused model portrait

Diffused light gives a very even and soft spread across the subject’s face

creative light natural window model white

Placing your subject below the window allows for the light to define the model’s facial features

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5 responses to “Ideas to Modify Natural Light for Portrait Photography”

  1. That’s some fantastic photos and some great advise!

    For real, thanks for sharing! Always love your stuff!

  2. We try to use natural daylight in all our corporate headshots. This means positioning the sitter near a window and then we use a single light for the main directional light and balance this against the strength of the daylight coming in from one side or behind the sitter.

  3. Mark Stall says:

    This was a truly well done piece on learning the importance of light to every photograph. The experienced portrait photographer was taught these rules and I commend you for teaching it @picturecorrect I coincidentally switched one of my twitter headers to an image shot thru an airplane widow. I hope you check it out. mark stall @prostudiosupply

  4. lee coles says:

    great article. i love using natural light

  5. Cynthia says:

    Love the video!

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