Learning to use light effectively is essential for all photographers, there is no substitute for understanding how light works and appreciating how to use it to your advantage within your work. For portraits, I always prefer to use natural light, even if I am indoors. Working with natural light isn’t all easy sailing, there are plenty of aspects that need to be understood in order to avoid making mistakes.
1. Decide what the shoot is for
Before you even think about picking up your camera, the first thing you need to consider is the type of shoot you’re undertaking. Is there a certain purpose to the shoot?
It could be head shots for an actor or business, a fashion shoot, family portrait, for online promotion or just for a friend. Think carefully about the setting and style of the shoot depending upon its purpose. Will you need extra clothes, make-up and time for styling? Is it an environment portrait, depicting the person a familiar setting, possibly at work or at home?
2. Location, Location, Location
Once you’ve decided the purpose of the shoot, you’ll find it far easier to select a suitable location. Think about what might suit the style of the shoot, for example, somewhere scenic with plenty of space, by a river, lake, hills or in the park?
Maybe you want to represent your subject in the midst of a busy city amongst the architecture, traffic and crowds? There’s also the option of using a room indoors. Larger rooms are usually brighter (most large rooms have more windows) and give you a sense of space to work with. Smaller and dimmer rooms will suit a shot that requires more shadows and a more somber mood. Don’t forget to utilize the structures around you, particularly indoors, doorways, windows, staircases and pillars can all make for useful structural support within your image.