Making the Most of Natural Light in Your Portrait Photography

Too often it's easy to overlook the beauty of natural light instead of controlling that most important photography variable. But in the words of YouTuber and photographer Tung Bui, "Natural light portraits shouldn't be a challenge ... they should be enjoyable."

It's with that in mind that Bui offers several tips for how to maximize your efforts using only natural light.

Striking in Bui's approach is that there is never a modifier nor speedlight to be seen. There are no reflectors in the video either. It's just Bui, his camera, and his model, along with some great light and backgrounds. It's a reminder that while it's easy to make a great picture if you're lugging tons of lights, power packs, and assistants with you, sometimes the freedom of carrying nothing but your camera and using your creativity may be the best option.

Bui offers a fair bit of technical advice, things that are always good practice whether it's looking for leading lines, or looking for the interplay between shadow and light. Some of the advice is model-specific, such as using the sunlight to create a nice rim light on the hair, which works when someone has lighter hair and lighter skin that's easier to process out in editing afterward than someone with black hair and dark skin that's stuck in a backlight situation.

One of the tips that really caught my eye, though, that I haven't often thought about is to use the sunlight to light the background while your subject sits in even light in the shadows, such as those from a building or otherwise large, opaque structure. The examples that Bui shows really make use of his Fuji X-T5's ability to lift shadows as the interplay between his subject and the sun-drenched structures behind her is just beautiful.

There are a lot more tips and examples that Bui shares in his video. Check it out above, and if you have any natural light photography tips of your own, share them in the comments below.

Wasim Ahmad's picture

Wasim Ahmad is an assistant teaching professor teaching journalism at Quinnipiac University. He's worked at newspapers in Minnesota, Florida and upstate New York, and has previously taught multimedia journalism at Stony Brook University and Syracuse University. He's also worked as a technical specialist at Canon USA for Still/Cinema EOS cameras.

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