Thursday, September 23, 2010

Making the Most of Natural Light

Portraits can be tricky. Too sunny and you'll have harsh shadows and lots of squinting. Too cloudy and the image can be a bit gray--but your expressions will look natural and terrific.

There are two good ways to add a little "pop" to an outdoor portrait. First, you can use a flash for fill. Second you can use reflectors.

For this sunny-day portrait, we avoided squinting by positioning our subjects so the sun was behind them. This allowed the sun to work as a rim light, adding highlights to the hair and shoulders. This also separated the subject from the background. However, without a reflector, the faces would be too dark--almost silhouettes. Add the reflector and you get beautiful lighting, making the sun do double-duty. We used a gold foil for our reflector to add warmth to the skin tones.

By using a telephoto lens and a special filter ("neutral density" for you technical types) to limit the amount of light that reaches the camera sensor, we're able to create a creamy-smooth out-of-focus background, drawing more attention to the subject.

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