I made this portrait at Pacific City on the Oregon coast the other day. It’s a wonderful place to shoot, and the cliffs at the northern edge helped me control the direction of light on this little family.
Almost everybody looks better with light coming across the face from the side, so that one side of the face is brighter than the other. If you look closely, you’ll see that the light is brighter on the right side of this picture (the people’s left). I usually set my camera to black and white to help me see where the shadows fall; since I’m shooting in RAW, my picture will be in color on the computer.
It was late afternoon, so the sun was low in the sky, and there were clouds diffusing the light so it’s very soft. If I only wanted soft light across their faces, I’d be all set. However, including a catch light in the eyes helps people look alive in a portrait. So, we moved close to the cliff, which acted as a flag to block the light from that side of the horizon, making that side of their faces a little bit darker.
If you’ve got a beach with a cliff on one side, you’re all set. For the rest of us, we can find similar light situations anywhere there is a distinctly brighter light to one side, and the more horizontal that light is, the better. Here are some likely places:
- Large window
- Open garage door
- Covered walkway
- Under an umbrella
Pay attention as you go about your day, and I bet you’ll find lots of similar places to utilize natural light with direction for your portraits.
Disclaimer: This is just one way to work with the light.