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Natural light is an excellent tool for taking portraits. Using different types of natural light, you can make different areas a cool background. The Aperture Academy Natural Light Workshops teach just this – making natural light a photographer’s best friend!
All workshops start out with a short intro on the basics of how to use your camera. As such, as soon as we get outside, we set our cameras at aperture priority mode (aperture value mode – a mode where the camera chooses the shutter speed for you) with f/5-5.6 as our aperture, ISO 640-800, and exposure compensation at 0.0. This was a good all-around setting to start with because it generally works with 1-3 people and almost all natural light situations that are not in direct sunlight.
If we want to change our shutter, we can either raise our ISO or add light through our exposure compensation. Raising the ISO too high would give us digital grain so we balance this by stopping at an ISO that is high enough to not have too much noise and then adding light instead via exposure compensation.
The rule of thirds is a very important rule to photography aesthetic that “places your subject in either the left third of your frame or right third of your frame”. It gives your subject, which is the positive space of an image, a more complex narrative in the negative space they look into. After a while, we also threw playing with aperture into the mix. We want to make sure that our focus is what we decide it to be – a smaller f/stop number (wide opening) like f/1.2, f/1.8, f/3.5, f/4 for a smaller area of focus so we can isolate our subject and have a blurry background. We choose a bigger f/stop (smaller opening) like f/8, f/11, f/16 for focus on a bigger area, so that we include more of the background (i.e. cool textures, iconic monuments, etc). If repeating/symmetrical backgrounds (pillars, windows, paths on pavement, etc) were important to our composition, we set a bigger number for our aperture. We practiced using the S Curve in our subject’s bodies to create lines that lead to their faces.
Being a natural light workshop, we had to pay close attention to different types of natural light that can help make a great portrait. Direct sunlight is a type of natural light that is the bane of our existence as photographers. This is because direct sunlight on a subject’s face can cause unflattering “raccoon eyes” (harsh shadows under the eyes, mouth and nose). When taking portraits, it is important to choose the direction your subject is facing with the direct sunlight. If your subject has sun directly in their face, they have harsh shadows on their faces and they squint because the sun is in their eyes. Backlighting your subject allows you to place the sun behind your subject instead of in front of them. This gives them a nice even light on their faces as well as a pretty rim light around their hair. Open shade is great because the light is even and the background tends to have even light as well.
Using our 5-in-1 reflectors to add and fill light on our subject’s faces was another way to control harsh sunlight or harsh shadows. We also used the diffuser and had the sun go through it, creating a nice glow of even light on our subject.
After the workshops, we now knew that it would be cool to have lenses that have wider aperture openings (don’t forget www.borrrowlenses.com in case you wanted to try any of them out for a reasonable price!).
Ellie and I had a great time showing our tips and tricks of the trade. Remember, it is a lot of information, however, practice is all you need!
Thank you and Happy Snapping from Danielle, Ellie and the entire Aperture Academy Team!
If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.