Capturing portraits in natural light may seem like an easy concept to understand, however, finding the proper locations to achieve stunning natural light results can often become a most difficult challenge.
On this bright and sunny Saturday in August, Aperture Academy instructor Ellie Stone was on hand to teach a group of enthusiastic photographers about this very topic--natural light in portrait photography. Scheduled for the day's agenda was various techniques for utilizing the available light, to effectively create compelling portraits. Becoming more comfortable with their equipment and utilizing the manual modes on their cameras for shooting were also a very important aspect of the workshop's agenda.
Ellie began with the customary introductions. She was especially focused on getting to know everyone's skill level and expectations, which Aperture Academy instructors know is vital in order to tailor each workshop for each individual student. Ellie went over some brief refreshers on aperture and depth of field, which are imperative for portrait photography. After the slideshow presentation, it was time to take the group outside for the excitement and fun of the tactile portion of the workshop.
On this workshop, Mother Nature provided one of the most challenging of lighting conditions... bright sun. Unlike landscape photography, where we can choose when to shoot during the best light situations, oftentimes in portrait photography, we are forced to take photographs in bright mid-day light conditions, such as for a wedding or event. Therefore, learning how to deal with an unfortunate lighting scenario can allow a photographer to feel confident that they can make simple adjustments to achieve a great shot.
Class began right outside the gallery doors. From a simple railing to a colored sunshade, the normally overlooked became our natural light gallery of backgrounds. Right from the start, Ellie started to challenge the students with the task of moving themselves around the subject to eliminate background clutter. Ellie assisted with camera settings, and explained why ISO and shutter speed are so important. If one has a beautiful model, posed in an attractive way, under the best lighting conditions, it's all for naught if the camera's settings are incorrect.
The group made their way around the Pruneyard shopping center, stopping often to take advantage of the changing light and differing architecture. At every corner there was a new challenge for students. They dealt with backlight, high contrast, and even a dark hallway. All the while learning how to read the light. They were shown how just moving the model's face ever so slightly can create a dramatically different effect. Also, the students learned how and when to incorporate a simple reflector for dramatically pleasing results.
The gang continued making their way around the picturesque shopping center, which seemed to have an endless supply of backdrops and different lighting options. There was even a fun challenge of reflector folding. A seemingly easy task, which proved more difficult...and more fun...than most first thought.
The three-hour class flew by and it was all too soon time to set up for a quick closing shot of our entire group, so everyone would have a memento of their day and their Aperture Academy experience. After the group photo, Ellie answered some final questions, and then thanked all the students for their participation in this fun and informative day.
Until next time,
Ellie, and the rest of the Aperture Academy team!
P.S. If you'd like to join us at one of our workshops, you can find the schedule/sign up here.