6 Tips for better portrait lighting

Portrait lighting can make a huge difference when it comes to getting great results. Here are 6 tips that will guarantee better looking portraits!

6 Tips for better portrait lighting - Paper and Landscapes - FI

I love portraits. They’re one of my favorite types of photography. However, portrait lighting can be tricky sometimes, and it can make or break your photograph.

I am trying to improve my techniques, so here are some tips that are helping me get better results.

Portrait Lighting Tips

1. Shoot at the right time of day.

Early mornings and late afternoons provide softer and more directional light, which makes the portrait look more natural. This is very important. Shooting at midday will create very harsh light with deep shadows, and the direction of the light will be unflattering for your subject.

On the other hand, look how beautiful it looks to have soft lighting in a portrait:

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2. Look for the shade.

If the natural light is too bright at the moment of the photography session, you might want to place your subject under some shade. Otherwise, you will get a wrinkly, squint eye expression, and probably deep unflattering shadows too. Looking for a nice shade will also avoid your subject getting exhausted and sweaty from the heat.

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[Photo by Nick Koch Weiler]

3. Use a diffuser or reflector.

A diffuser is a translucent fabric that spreads light to make it softer and more even, which is great for most portraits. In some cases, a white reflector can also help to bounce some light in the direction of your subject to avoid a harsh direct light.

[I use a 5-in-1 reflector, which includes a diffuser, similar to this one.]

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4. Look for window lighting.

If you are indoors, look for natural light! Place your subject next to a broad window. If the light is coming directly through the window, use a diffuser to make it softer.

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5. Bounce light indoors.

If you are shooting indoors in a room where there are no windows, or maybe there’s just no natural light coming in anymore, you might have to use a flash [This is the one I currently use, in case you’re wondering], or a continuous light. Whichever the light source you choose, try not to use it straight towards your subject. Pointing it at a white or light-colored surface will make it bounce, which is the same function that a reflector does. This will make it look softer and more natural.

6. Find the catch light.

Catch lights are the reflections of your light source in the eyes of your subject. This makes their eyes look sparkly and vivid! Without it, eyes might look too dark and dull. If you place your portrait lighting properly, you will get a pretty catch light.

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Getting your portrait lighting right takes time and practice. So don’t get discouraged! You will encounter many situations that will challenge you if you want to be a portrait photographer, but the more you practice, the more you get the hang of it and learn how to control lighting problems quicker.

After getting the lighting right, you’ll be able to concentrate on other important aspects that make a portrait look amazing, like posing, facial expressions, props, etc.

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Also, don’t forget that photography is an art, and all artist have licenses to break the rules. Therefore, you can still get awesome portraits by lighting them your own way! Just get creative and have fun with it

Here are other art tips you might like 🙂


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