What is the Best Light for your Portrait Photos?

What is the best light for portraits? Do you need to have expensive studio lights to be able to take good portraits? Actually the most flattering light is natural light. You can use natural light indoors, using the light from a window, or you can take your portraits outdoors. When taking portraits outdoors there are a few things that you should watch for.

Avoid taking photos in direct sunlight which will cause squinting and harsh shadows. Overcast days produce the most flattering light as it is a more soft all over light. If taking portraits on a bright sunny day be sure to place your subject in the shade, if there is no shade available in the desired location don’t place your subject looking into the sun, it is still possible to take portraits in bright sunlight as you can see in this photo,  but you may need to use fill flash when taking photos in the bright light.

image of mom and son in bright sun

What is fill flash? Fill flash is when you turn on your camera’s flash even though it is bright out so that it will lighten your subject and fill in the shadows caused by the brilliant background or uneven lighting. Here is a before and after example of a photo taken outdoors without the flash and then turning it on.

image of child outside with no flash

image of child outside with fill flash

There are a few other things to watch for when taking portraits outdoors, watch for background clutter so there are no trees or poles growing out of people’s head, and also try to avoid ugly wires or trash cans in the background. If you don’t want to see the background use a wide aperture (low number f5.6 or lower) or use the portrait mode on your camera to create a softly blurred background.

Taking outdoor portraits of a child while they are at play allow you to create natural looking portraits. Always remember to focus on the eyes.Get outdoors and create a portrait of someone with a lovely nature scene as a background.



What is the Best Light for your Portrait Photos? — 2 Comments

  1. Is it the same if you do outdoor video? I tried to do one of me sitting on the deck and there was a dark shadow on my face. Didn’t turn out well at all.

  2. Bridget on said:

    yes that is the same problem with video, if they have a light turn it on or you could face a small lamp at yourself

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