Ex­pert tips

NPhoto - - Feature -

1 Use soft win­dow light

Win­dow light of­fers soft, di­rec­tional il­lu­mi­na­tion that can fall beau­ti­fully over a face. North-fac­ing win­dows are best (when north of the equa­tor) as they don’t see di­rect sun­light. Try hav­ing the sub­ject side-on to the win­dow light (per­haps with a re­flec­tor to bounce light back into the shadow side of their face), or shoot with their back to the win­dow and ex­pose for their face for a more high-key feel.

2 Seek out con­trast

In most good por­traits, the sub­ject stands out from the back­ground to draw the eye. One way to do this when you’re shoot­ing out­doors is to look for con­trast­ing light­ing be­tween the sub­ject and the back­drop – ei­ther by hav­ing the sub­ject in shade with a bright patch be­hind them (like this, left) or by find­ing a spot where the light fall­ing on them is brighter than the back­drop, such as a shaded door­way.

3 Avoid strong sun­light

When the sun is out in full force, you may think it’s the ideal time to go out to shoot por­traits, but strong sun­light can be un­kind to faces. It casts shad­ows across the face, shows up spots and makes sub­jects squint. This is be­cause light that comes from a small source is harsh, like a bare bulb; and while the sun is huge, for us it’s a small, bright spot in a big sky. Ei­ther shoot into the sun (see tip 2) or find some shade (tip 4).

4 Look for soft shade

A cloudy sky or a shady spot is much more at­trac­tive for por­trai­ture work than di­rect sun­light. In the shade, the light is far softer. It’s also dim­mer, which might mean you have to in­crease the ISO, but that’s a worth­while com­pro­mise for hav­ing more flat­ter­ing light. If there’s no cloud cover, look for a spot in the shade of a tree or a wall. If you can’t find any, make your own shade with your re­flec­tor.

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