Natural Light for Natural, Subtle Beauty

We are going to take a look at how we can use simple, natural light for some beauty shots of Bri on location in Miami, Arizona.

This sleepy little town has such great old walls and patinas to work with. That and the fact that it is about 12 degrees cooler than Phoenix made it a great place to go shoot.

But before we go there, just a note about some upcoming workshops: We are in Detroit on October 4 and 5 and then on to Kansas City for a workshop. We are also booking into next year, so if you think we should do a workshop in your town, drop me a note and we can see what we can make happen.

Here are a few images taken with totally ambient light, no additional light or fill cards.

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We started working in the shade with some wonderful light being delivered from bright old buildings across the street. There were several white buildings and an old wall that gave a lot of fill back into the area where Lisa set up for makeup. I took a few shots of the MUA at work so you can see how the light in this area was so nice.

You can see the area where we were set up and the shade we were working in.

Notice the hair light that is warming up the right side of Briana’s hair. This is totally being ‘bounced’ from a warm colored building down the block a ways. I liked it and it made me want to shoot in that area.

For the above shot I asked Bri to look back at me so I could get an idea about how the light would wrap in that shady area. She is not out of makeup yet, but I do this so if I need to set anything up, I can get to it while she is still being made up.

Our first shot is Briana in the place where we did makeup, turning around toward the sidewalk so I could get the lit background to add dimension. Notice how her hair picks up the reflection of the buildings (specular) on each shaft, adding a wonderful natural hair light. There are no reflectors, fill cards or flash here, just the soft light from the brightly filled sidewalk area.

Our next shot is one of Bri in the shade of a north facing building on a two lane town street. She is right near the shadow edge, but not far enough out to pick up any hair light. I wanted a far more subtle look to this image than the bright hair light would have provided. There is still a ‘hair light’ look here and that is the reflection of the light above on the hair… tiny speculars of the source if you will. Personally, I love this kind of subtle, soft light.

Here is another shot from the same place, but this one is in black and white. Notice how the subtle shadings lend themselves perfectly to monochrome imaging. There are so many shades in this image, yet the natural feel is complimentary to the subject and the mood.

When shooting in the shade like this, I find that digital seems a bit flat. I use several very subtle masks in curves to bump up selected luminance and add contrast.

This last shot is also with no fill cards or flash. Right down the street we found this cool old gate. I had Briana in the sun there, and the sun was also lighting up the buildings where I am standing. I love the flooded soft wash of light. Of course the direct sun adds a lot of sparkle to the images, and I am not worried about ‘blowing’ those tones out as they are already in that realm… and the look is one that I like. Very ‘fashion’ looking.

When trying this type of light, make sure you don’t end up with very bright surfaces below the model. If that happens, like a white sidewalk, you could have low light… that is light that is coming up and causing shadows on the top part of the cheeks. Way worse looking than what the sunlight does coming down and throwing shadows under the eyes.

Also make sure that there are bright areas across from your model. If there are lots of dark trees and things as that would make a much more muddy scene. Everything reflects and a dark light source, which is exactly what those dark trees would be, is not attractive and will make your Photoshop work overtime.

More coming this weekend.

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About 

This is a place for photographers.

Hi, I'm wizwow - also known as Don Giannatti. Photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amhearst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and e-zine with a slightly different slant than most photography related sites. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out Project 52 Pros.

Thanks for visiting.

3 Comments

  1. Nice article with some good tips that are worth remembering. Taking photographs in bright sun can be very challenging, so tips like these can be very useful.

  2. I\\\\\\\’ve been using your Open Shade Technique to great success Don. The models just love the look. Their hair aglow, reflected light from a building or the ground or a small strobe just makes their eyes sparkle witrh life. It looks so fresh and natural and not contrived. Certainly opens up the time in a day when you can shoot.

    Thanks for the great tips Don.

    Kevin

  3. I do not think that the make-up understood or perhaps grasped the notion that by putting too much shadow and liner on her lid and framing the eyes the way she did, that she actually made Briana’s eyes look smaller. She could have used more white higher on the lid just below the eye brow to open up her eyes more which acts as a frame of the eyes but higher up on the lid. This gives the impression of larger eyes than she actually has.

    http://www.pbase.com/benjikan/image/78947969