Portrait photographers work with many different types of lighting, including, natural light. With natural lighting, there is no need to carry around extra equipment, and it’s hard to beat its effortless beauty. The difference between natural light and studio light is the amount of control we have over the two. Natural light can be stunning, but it is important to understand how to control it properly to maximize its potential.

Mornings and evenings offer the softest light for a portrait photographer. Especially when you are outside photographing a family portrait, you want to make sure that no one is squinting into the light, or hiding their face. Softer light casts softer shadows, as the sun is lower in the sky, and is also softer on the eyes. This results in breathtaking portraiture, whereas shooting in the middle of day can have a more harsh appearance. While shooting in the middle of the day may not be ideal for a photographer, don’t be afraid to grab your camera and give it a "shot." The middle of the day is full of vibrant color, and capturing candid moments of a family during this time can be just as heartwarming. If you’re shooting during the day, it is important to handle light correctly, and you have less margin for error. For example, shoot in a shaded area where some of the light is naturally diffused.

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Now that you know the best time to shoot, it is time to learn the best angles. The first option is to position the subject directly in front of the sun. As the sun goes down, it will cast a warm glow over the subjects face and bring out their features. By placing the subject slightly behind the sun, the photo will appear slightly softer.
What if you’re shooting indoors? If you’re shooting inside, look for windows. Window lighting is the best form of indoor natural light. When I do newborn photography with a family, I always want to position them near a window to get that soft beautiful difused light. When shooting inside, set your aperture wide. This will allow you to let in enough light for a properly exposed photo. Remember the narrower the space, the harder the light. The broader the space, the less shadows.

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Natural light is always changing and simply, unpredictable. The best thing to do is patiently wait for the best light. Shooting in the same place at different times or conditions can lead to very different feelings to your photos. Always observe weather and conditions before meeting your couple or family to avoid having to reschedule.

Now that you’re familiar with controlling natural light, it is time to go out and practice. Experimenting with light is one of the best ways to take control and create breathtaking images. For more photographer tips, check out this blog about our recipe for success or tips for better family portraits here. Or if you are interested in booking a shoot and want to know the best time of day to book, check out our blog on lighting.

Written By Michael W. (Pacific Dream Photography at the Grand Hyatt Kauai)