Shoot Gorgeous Portraits On a Tight Budget
Step 1. Find 1 decent sized window.
Window light is and always has been my all-time favorite light to shoot with. On an overcast day, there’s nothing like what nature provides. Placing the subject relative to the window affects their shape (perfect topic for another post later).
Keep it Simple! The best part about natural window light is there is much less of a “fear factor” involved than with flash, regardless if you’re talking studio lights or speed light (small flash). It’s really intimidating being scrutinized under glass – also known as being photographed. Not unlike being placed under a microscope in a lab. Be honest, do you REALLY like to be photographed?
Think about how your subject feels.
It’s uncomfortable already. Using natural light is much less intimidating in an already stressful situation. The more at ease your subject, the better their expression, which is exactly what you’re trying to capture, right? These photos were either shot with all natural light (outdoor overcast), or 1 window. No flash.
Step 2. Use a simple (white) reflector.
A simple reflector can be used to bounce that natural light around and help fill in shadows. I really like white reflectors – especially the translucent ones. Easy on my budget since they do double duty – either soften harsh light between the light source and subject, or bounce light back into the shadows.
A few of these images were shot with a white translucent Lastolite trigrip. A few were just a simple piece of white foam core board from the hobby shop.
Step 3. Use a Prime Lens.
All were shot with a small, affordable prime lens. Prime means no zoom. It’s a “straight” xx millimeter, like a 50mm f1.8 (check out the 50mm f1.8 for Nikon here and Canon here from Adorama) or a 35mm or an 85 mm.
Prime lenses also let you get up close to your subjects so you don’t need a 20 foot deep studio space, you can shoot in close quarters. With a 50mm lens I can get within about 15″ of my subject – awesome! Most of these images were shot with the 50. The Canon lens is under 5 oz.
Step 4. Black Background
I really like my 5’x7′ popup fabric background. It folds into about a 2′ round bag I can sling into the back of my car. It weighs next to nothing and can be propped on a wall or 1 light stand. The Flashes of Hope images were made on the black – easy – I don’t have “light” black to make it look black as opposed to white, which I would have to light since it’s farther away from the window than my subjects. Black is also great for hiding any shadows on the background I might get for any number of reasons.
Step 5. Edit in Photoshop/Lightroom/Photoshop Elements
Now that you have great window light, great images, you’ll need to edit them. If you did everything right in camera, you probably still need to do a bit of retouching in one of the 3 Adobe programs above. I can’t wait to share tons of tips & tricks to speed up how long you’re chained to that computer in our upcoming Photo Retouching workshops (for both Mac AND PC!)
Photoshop Elements: Tuesday evenings, March-April 2013.
One more Critical Factor:
Learn how to light and pose a wide variety of people to flatter each one individually. I’ll be sharing all sorts of tips & techniques to capture the best images with a variety of real life subjects on March 16.