STE P BY STE P / A work of art
1 Clothing and backdrop
The brightest part of the image should be your model’s face, so make sure that the fabric you choose for the shoot is relatively dull and the colour isn’t too similar to your model’s skin tone. A plain paper roll backdrop is useful if you have one, but you could use a plain wall.
2 Windows to the soul
South-facing windows will provide the brightest light during most of the day in the northern hemisphere (the opposite is true for southern hemisphere). The bigger the window, the softer the light – and this technique works on overcast, rainy days as well as clear ones.
3 Location, location, location
Position your model a few steps from the window. Any further and the light falloff will be too great – you’ll end up having to raise the ISO and lose some dimensionality in the facial features. Stand the model a foot or so from the backdrop, turned three-quarters towards the camera.
Set an aperture of f/5.6 or wider. The shutter speed should follow the law of reciprocals to your focal length (so, 1/50 sec for a 50mm lens) to avoid camera shake. Raise the ISO as needed, though if you need to go above ISO800, move your model closer to the window.
5 Breath of fresh air
With the simple lighting set-up and plain backdrop it’s easy for this to become a still-life. To add dynamism to your portrait, introduce some wind to move the hair and fabric. Alternatively, you could have someone waft air in your model’s direction with a reflector.
6 Bounce some light
If the shadows are too dark on the side of your model’s face, use a reflector to bounce some of the sunlight back in. Be careful not to rid your image of all shadows, though, because the shadows add depth and form to the fabric, and give that Old Master look.