Shooting with available light(s)
29 Dec, 2017

Shooting with available light(s)

Natural light has always been my favourite when shooting portraits. A true portrait to me is a portrait that truly shows that person as he or she is. Nothing fake and not too "arranged". And yet once in a while the devil is tempting me ...

I am a big fan of people.
Now ... that might sound strange coming from a somewhat introvert guy like me.
But I really am a big fan of people. Shooting people – with my camera of course! I said I was introvert not a psychopath :D

Anyways ... I really like taking portraits of people, but not in a big fancy studio with lots of lights and soft boxes, setting up rim lights etc. 
And there are 2 reasons for this (maybe more, but I'm a simple guy)

  1. I wouldn't have the faintest idea about how to setup a shot with all those lights and gels and backgrounds etc. I am simply lacking the skill to do that. I would have no idea of what to set up where and when to achieve a certain look. And yes ... mainly due to lack of experience. But also because it just simply never applied to my interest.
  2. And I really love natural light. Plain and simple. And yes, you may argue that you can replicate natural light in a studio ... and to some extend I agree. But then please go back, and read reason #1 again, thank you :D

So when I shoot portraits, weddings etc. I always go with natural light, because I feel at home and I know what I'm doing. And given the right circumstances you can achieve some amazing shots.

Example #1


Right of the bat, some of you might say that she's overexposed. And she is. I'll give you that. But see ... the thing is ... this was shot by the window on a train in the late spring. That was how she looked. 

Example #2


All shot outside ... one light only: The Sun
But still various expressions of images

And I really enjoy doing those kinds of shots. And yes, sometimes a little Lightroom-magic is required to reach the end goal, but hey ... I am kind of a "fix it in post" photographer. And I am not ashamed about that. I have a huge amount of respect for all of you guys who can setup you camera for a perfect result out-of-camera. I really have. I have other skills, so I use those.

What about the "tempting devil" you mentioned in the beginning?

Oh yes ... the devil. Because sometimes I look at what other photographers do. And believe me. Just because I love natural light, doesn't mean I don't like what others do. I have a HUGE AMOUNT of respect for those of you who actually can do what I cant (see Bullet No. 1). And I am really amazed by the results and look you can get – either in a studio – or outside when you have the gear and the knowledge to set it up properly. So of course I sometimes try. And believe me ... when you do not have the gear (or the knowledge) it sometimes take you down some weird paths.

My girlfriend is an illustrator (amongst other) so she had this light pad lying around.
A light pad is one of those "panels" that light up you can then put i.e. an image on it, and the a piece of paper over that and then draw from that because the light shines through.
It's something like this


Anyways ... I've tried to utilise that single light source creatively.
Taking my "subject" into a fairly dark room, and then just use this light gave me some pretty interesting shots.

Example #3

This is my daughter, Frida, and was my very first attempt at using "studio light". I really like what it gives. I'm pretty sure, some of you pros out there will hate it, because I have probably done a 100 things wrong. But in the end, I need to be the one satisfied, since I, myself here, was the "customer".

And I have tried to use this on a "real" customer also

Example #4


By lighting them from the front, and placing my camera on top of the light pad I got this. A look I really like ... and so did they.

And I know with the "right" everything probably would have been a lot easier ... but that's not my point. My point is in the headline.
Try shooting with available light – whether it's the sun or a random light pad your girlfriend has ... you might end up with something useful.

Thanks for reading