Using Natural Light for Portrait Photography

  1. Photography lighting tips
  2. Natural Light Photography
  3. Using natural light for portrait photography

As an aspiring photographer, you may have heard that natural light is one of the best tools for creating beautiful and captivating portraits. But what exactly is natural light and how can you use it to your advantage? In this article, we will explore the importance of natural light in portrait photography and give you some tips and tricks on how to make the most of it.

Timing Matters

When it comes to portrait photography, timing matters. The quality of your images can be greatly affected by the time of day you shoot. Light changes throughout the day, and understanding how it affects your images is key to creating great portraits. The quality of light from natural sources such as the sun, clouds and even trees will vary depending on the time of day.

Early morning and late evening tend to produce softer, warmer light, while midday light can be harsher and more intense. To take advantage of the best quality light, plan your photo shoot around the time of day when it will be most flattering. In addition to the time of day, you should also pay attention to the direction of the light. During sunrise and sunset, the light is coming from the east or west, creating a beautiful warm glow. At midday, the light is coming from directly above, casting shadows under eyes and emphasizing wrinkles.

Be aware of how shadows can affect your shots and try to use the light to your advantage. By taking the time to understand how timing affects your photos, you can create stunning portraits with natural light. Pay attention to the quality and direction of light when planning your portrait shoots for beautiful results.


When it comes to portrait photography, experimentation is key. Trying different angles and perspectives can help you create unique and interesting compositions. Moving around the subject, using different lenses, and changing your viewpoint are all great ways to explore the possibilities of natural light.

One of the most effective ways to experiment is to take a series of shots with different light angles and exposures. This will help you understand how the light affects the subject and the resulting image. You can also experiment with different apertures, shutter speeds, white balance settings, and ISO settings to get a better understanding of how they affect the image. Another way to experiment is to use a reflector or diffuser to modify the light.

Reflectors can be used to bounce light onto the subject, while diffusers can be used to soften the light. Using these tools can help create interesting effects that can make your photos stand out. Finally, don’t be afraid to get creative with your composition. Try framing the subject differently or adding elements to the background or foreground for added interest. Experimenting with different angles and perspectives can help you create stunning portraits that capture your subject in a unique way.

Understanding Natural Light

Light is the foundation of any good photograph.

Before you can begin using natural light for portrait photography, it's important to understand the basics of lighting. There are two main types of light: natural and artificial. Natural light is light that is generated by the sun, while artificial light is created by a lamp or other device. Natural light comes in many forms, including direct sunlight, diffused sunlight, ambient light, reflected light, and backlight. Direct sunlight is the strongest type of natural light and produces harsh shadows.

Diffused sunlight is a softer form of natural light, as it has been softened by passing through a cloud or other obstruction. Ambient light is a soft, even light that illuminates a scene from all directions. Reflected light is created when sunlight is reflected off of an object such as a wall or floor. Backlight is created when sunlight is blocked by the subject, creating a dramatic effect. Once you understand the basics of lighting, you can start to experiment with different types of natural light for portrait photography.

Try to explore and understand the different qualities of each type of natural light, and how they can be used to create stunning images.

Managing Shadows

When using natural light for portrait photography, shadows can be a great way to create interesting and compelling images. However, if not managed properly, they can also be distracting and unflattering. Here are some tips to help you learn how to use shadows effectively in your images with different light modifiers.


Diffusers are a great way to soften the harshness of natural light and reduce the contrast between light and shadows in your image. By diffusing the light, you will be able to create softer shadows that enhance the texture of your subjects’ features without creating harsh lines or darkness in your image.


Reflectors are an invaluable tool when it comes to portrait photography.

By reflecting the light off of a surface, you can fill in any shadows that are too dark or distracting. Reflectors come in many shapes and sizes, so you can choose the one that best suits the size of your subject and the lighting situation.

Shutter Speed

By increasing your shutter speed, you can reduce the amount of light that hits your subject, resulting in softer shadows. This technique is especially useful when shooting in direct sunlight, as it can help reduce the intensity of the shadows created by the light.

Angle of Light

When using natural light for portrait photography, pay close attention to the angle of light. By angling the light towards your subject, you can create flattering shadows that accentuate their features and make them stand out in the image.

On the other hand, if you angle the light away from your subject, it will create a more subtle shadow effect. Using natural light for portrait photography can be a great way to capture beautiful and unique images. Through understanding the basics of lighting, managing shadows, and experimenting with timing and angles, you can create stunning photos that capture special moments in time. With practice and experimentation, you'll be able to master this technique and create breathtaking memories that you can cherish for a lifetime.