Natural Light Headshots: Keeping it Simple

Keeping it Simple with Natural Light.

In Mexico we had wonderful white Casitas to stay in courtesy of the Las Palmas Resort. They provided some remarkable shooting areas as well as natural light bouncing off all the white walls and railings.

I personally love natural light for all kinds of portraiture, but especially for headshots. The way the ambient light works the modeling of the features of the subject is something I especially like.

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Our first image is one of Precilla in the afternoon sun. We are on a patio and the sun is still a little high in the sky, but behind her. The area we are on has a wall of white over my right shoulder. I exposed for her face, letting the background go bright. I like the natural look of it as well as the feeling of light. I was using a long lens with 2.8 so the DOF is really, really narrow. You can see how the light models her features against the bright sky.

Precilla in Natural Light in Mexico

In the next shot of Jazmin, we have her in the shade of the bright wall. The ambient is everywhere and she is being lit by the lightly overcast white sky. The light seems to come from everywhere and her eyes are so bright. In her eyes you see the sky and the horizon as the catchlight. No reflector was used in this or any shots on this page.

Natural Light Headshot of Jazmin

Below is a contact sheet of Jazmin. You can see that no matter how she turns her face, the light is soft and even all around. If you had seen her in person it would have looked like she was dark in the shade, but once you isolate the subject and expose for the ambient light on her face, the whole scene takes on a different look.

Jazmin Contact Sheet : Natural Light only.

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This shot of Precilla on the balcony is more of an environmental portrait. We see a lot of the surroundings and it certainly is not as tight as the shot above of Jazmin. I converted it to B&W because of the subtle tones. And I like B&W. You can tell by the angle of the light on her shoulders that the sun is still quite high. This poured a lot of light across the white floor in front of her as well as the wall behind me. As usual with natural light shots, I exposed for the face (ambient) light, letting the highlight be whatever it is… even if it is blown out.

Precilla on the deck in Mexico: Natural Light

The next shot of Jazmin is a fashion shot. I simply kept the sunlight to her back and let the natural light of the surroundings set the exposure. The sun was down a bit from the previous shot, so it is a little less on her shoulders than it was on Precilla. Again, the exposure is taken at her face in the ambient light instead of the direct sunlight. Then the shot is exposed for the ambient, letting the backlight go bright.

Jazmin on the roof. A fashion shot in natural light.

In none of these shots did we use a reflector or any kind of light modification. I simply used the natural, ambient and direct light to make the image. While it is certainly fun to work with all kinds of lighting equipment, it is also equally fun to use just your wits and the light that is existing at the scene.

Thanks for visiting Lighting Essentials. We will be updating weekly with new and interesting lighting tutorials.

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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.

2 Comments

  1. Nice post. These models are beautiful, i can see how that technique enhances them even more. Keep up the good posting!

  2. these are really beautiful and totally natural shots….im looking for something like this to do my headshot in, i would love for you to contact me as soon as is convinient for you to do so. i would also like to know you rates.

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