Portrait Photography Lighting - How to Shoot Like the Pros

Apr 14


Autumn Lockwood

Autumn Lockwood

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Want to try your hand at portrait photography? Read this great guide to portrait lighting and learn how to avoid some common beginner mistakes.

Though it may seem simple from an outside perspective,Portrait Photography Lighting - How to Shoot Like the Pros Articles portrait lighting is one of the trickiest photography skills to nail down and takes years to master. On the plus side, because of the posed and scheduled nature of portrait photography, it is also one of the easiest ones to practice. If you want to start a studio out of your house, here are a few helpful tips to remember before you do your first shoot.

Brighter Isn’t Always Better
Harsh, bright lights will definitely give you lots of illumination and make photographing your subject super simple. However, harsh bright lights are rarely flattering and should be avoided especially if you want natural results. Portrait lighting is best achieved with soft light. You can find this light in the shade, on overcast days, or by using umbrella reflectors in the studio (these are available at a relatively low price). Using soft, even light will be easier to work with and will help to highlight your subject nicely.

Light Setup
Two lights should be enough for portrait lighting. Use one main light to determine the tone and direction of your light, then offset it with a second light placed near the camera. This will soften any harsh shadows and help even out the contrast. Another great way to achieve this effect is by placing one light above the camera and one fill reflector below the camera. Both of these solutions will give you great results with very little equipment.

Use What You Have
If you don’t have the cash to invest in a professional light setup, you can often get near-professional results by moving a couple of desk or floor lamps around. For even more control, try using sheets to reflect the light around the room. Look around your house for possible lighting equipment and you may find some unique opportunities to use for your portraits.

What About the Sun?
Often times, we think of portrait photography as studio photography, but that doesn't mean you have to be in a studio for professional results. You can get amazing results using natural light if you’re careful about how and when you use it. For instance, if you have a large window in your house, use it as a natural source of soft light. If you’re shooting outside, one of those big sheets of construction Styrofoam can work as a great reflector- just point it at your subject and it will help minimize harsh shadows.

Much like every other sort of photography, portraiture requires practice, patience, and a whole lot of love. Luckily, it doesn't require a lot of professional equipment or a lot of money. Be creative with your materials and subjects and you’ll be surprised at how great the results can be. Portrait lighting is all about subtlety but that doesn't mean that it's not a lot of fun!