Shooting Portraits in Difficult Light

Hello Creatives!

Today I wanted to go over shooting portraits in challenging lighting situations. I love shooting outdoors and using natural light, however that can sometimes present difficulties in achieving your desired final image. My favorite time of day to shoot is the last hour before sunset known as "the golden hour". This time of day typically lends itself to being perfect for capturing gorgeous backlight and soft, warm tones in your images. Whenever you are working outdoors with natural light and not using controlled light, such as flash or shooting inside in a studio setting, you have to be flexible and work quickly. I'm going to briefly go over my approach to taking control of sunlight and using it to your advantage on a shoot, as well as how I transform my images using Emily Soto's Fashion Actions in Photoshop.

In this session I was lucky enough to work with a truly talented country music artist out of Nashville by the name of Lindsey Bryant. Lindsey is as gorgeous and breathtaking to photograph as she is gifted behind a microphone and on stage. We shot this session on location at the Bella Collina Country Club in Montverde, Florida. For this image I positioned Lindsey with her profile to the sun in order to use all of the elements to my advantage. The sun was visible enough to give me the beautiful backlighting I wanted but still was able to give me enough light on her face, and the wind was blowing to benefit the flow of the dress and her hair.

Shooting in these lighting conditions you may want to consider using a reflector to bounce light back onto your models face. Or if you have the equipment you could also use a free standing flash unit to give you the extra light as well. These images were all taken using only my Canon 6D + 50mm f/1.4 lens and natural sunlight. To achieve the best images you will want to try out a few different settings on your camera. I like to over expose my images in these lighting conditions by using a higher iso, slower shutter speed, or a wide open aperture. However, just to cover my bases, I will take a few images that are much darker to capture the details of the background in case I need to replace the sky in any shots.

The image above was quite a bit more difficult to envision before it was edited, but I knew shooting in RAW I would be able to pull out the tones of the sky in Photoshop. For all of these images I used Emily Soto's Fashion Actions, first by using the "Fashion Skin" action to get flawless skin retouching. Secondly, I applied the photoshop action "Alice" to each of the images to give them all a cohesive look and lovely warm tone. I positioned Lindsey directly in front of the sun for this image so you would only be able to see the illumination of the rays around her hair and dress. Same thing for the image below, I used the sun directly behind Lindsey to get that gorgeous glowing effect.

Using the Photoshop "Fashion Actions" created by Emily Soto on my work always makes my images stand out in a professional and creative way.