Tony Corbel, a true master of lighting, taught me to practice seeing great light everywhere I go, and the more I look the more I find it. One place I always find a good patch of portrait light is right at the edge of bright sunlight.

In this first picture, Brad is facing a large floor to ceiling window with bright sunlight shining directly in. If he stands in the full sunlight, there will be too much contrast in the light and dark sides of his face. He’ll have deep shadows under his brow, and the dark side of his face will be far darker than the bright side. When I make the exposure settings in the camera correct for the bright side, the dark side will be completely black, including under his brow, and that’s not a flattering light.

I asked Brad to stand just on the edge of the sunlight, facing the window. Now, the sky outside the window is lighting him, and the sunlight on the floor is also reflecting up into his face. The light from the sky and the floor are much less bright, but also much larger which makes softer shadows on his face.

Levi_Sim Edge-1-2
Lumix GX8, Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, f/1.2, 1/80s, ISO 400.

Here’s a diagram showing the whole setup.


I used the same idea to make a portrait with Greg, with the addition of a chair for him to sit on.

Levi_Sim Edge-1-3
Lumix GX8, Leica 42.5mm f/1.2 lens, f/1.2, 1/320s, ISO 400.

You’ll find this kind of light everywhere sunlight is shining directly though a window. Pay attention, look for it, and you’ll be ready to make a portrait with terrific light.