We encounter natural light in our everyday life scenarios. Oftentimes we don't realize just how beautiful and flattering different types of natural light can be. Frustratingly, once we pick up our cameras and attempt to take photographs, specifically portrait images, this natural light can seem like our worst nightmare. However, once we understand how to read and manipulate this seemingly tricky light, portrait images become fun and flattering!
On this bright and sunny Saturday, Aperture Academy instructor Ellie Stone, assisted by Kristen Guldner, were on hand to teach a group of enthusiastic photographers about this very topic--using natural light. On tap for the day's agenda were the techniques for utilizing the available light to effectively create compelling portraits. Becoming more comfortable with your equipment and utilizing the manual modes for shooting was also a very important aspect of the day's lessons.
As is customary for Aperture Academy workshops, the instructors began the day's activities with introductions. Getting to know everyone's skill level and expectations is a vital component for our workshops, because they are tailored to each individual's needs and comfort levels.
Following introductions, Ellie went over some brief refreshers on aperture and depth of field, which are imperative in portrait photography. After this slideshow presentation, the group headed outside for the excitement and fun of the hands-on phase of the workshop.
Mother Nature provided one of the most challenging of lighting conditions--bright sun. Unlike landscape photography, where we can wait and shoot during the best light situations, in portrait photography we are more often forced to shoot a wedding or outdoor event during mid-day, full sunlight. Learning how to deal with an unfortunate lighting scenario can allow a photographer to feel confident when making simple adjustments to achieve a great shot.
Class began right outside the Aperture Academy gallery doors, where the normally overlooked, such as a simple railing or a colored sunshade, became our natural light gallery of backgrounds. Right from the start, the instructors challenged the students to see their backgrounds and to move themselves around their subject in ways to eliminate background clutter. All the while, Ellie assisted with camera settings and explained why ISO and shutter speed are so important. For instance, you can have a beautiful model posed in an attractive way under the best lighting conditions, and if the camera settings are incorrect, it is a wasted moment.
The group made their way around the Pruneyard shopping center, stopping often to take advantage of the changing light and back drops. At every turn and angle there was the opportunity for a new photographic or compositional challenge for our students. There were issues such as backlight, high contrast, and even a dark hallway, as they learned how to read the light. One of the reasons that location shooting is so effective, especially at ApCad workshops, is that there are ample opportunities for instructors to share little techniques that can make a big difference, such as, how moving the model's face the slightest bit can often create a dramatically different effect. While progressing and shooting around the Pruneyard center, the students also learned how and when to incorporate a simple reflector for dramatically pleasing results. Not a moment went by that wasn't used as some sort of opportunity to learn how to get the best portraits in natural light as possible.
It was all too soon time to set up for a quick end-of-class shot of the entire group, so everyone would have a memento of their day and Aperture Academy experience. After a short wrap-up where Ellie answered some final questions, we thanked all our photographers for their participation in this fun and informative day.
Until next time,
Ellie, Kristen 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.