Which light to use in Portrait Photography? What are the best settings for Portrait Photography?

Which light to use in Portrait Photography? What are the best settings for Portrait Photography?

Flash or light

The next hot topic in portrait photography is about absolute need of a flash or your own light? Yes, and no. This is also mainly a question of style.

Many photographers deliberately do without additional light sources.

But if we’re being completely honest, a large part of it waived because they always avoided dealing with lightning. If you say “Blitz” to them, they’ll say like a shot from the gun “Of course not, I like it of course”. And I think that is a huge mistake in principle! 

People think that way and honestly they need to ask themselves why they see it that way.

Natural light, artificial light? One thing doesn’t contradict the other at all. Provided you can really handle lightning.

You can absolutely get by without flash, no question about it. You do not have to use it.

But it is guaranteed that if you have mastered it and only have a small plug-on flash with a small light shaper such as the Round Flash in your pocket, then you will expand your possibilities infinitely and generally have more fun taking pictures.

So, you are no longer solely dependent on the available light.

You can build your own natural looking light yourself anywhere. So, do you “need” a flash? No! What would we advise to you?

Alternative or addition

Folding reflector

What I would definitely recommend, even if you decide against the flash, is a collapsible reflector. It doesn’t cost much, but it can have a lot of effect.

For example, if you just want to compensate for shadows or if you want to significantly improve the effect of the face, a collapsible reflector is small, light and can really serve you well. The question of whether gold, silver or white is initially purely a matter of taste.

Gold logically makes warmer light, silver reflects 100% of the existing light without tinting just like white, only the light from the white reflector is very soft, while silver is very hard.

If you are completely new to reflectors, you would be advised to start with a white reflector. That is the “most neutral”.

The most important light rule

The topic of light can be dealt with a lot and for a long time, we also have a lot of lessons in the shoot camp. You can make a real science out of it. This becomes clear to you at the latest when you learn the reciprocal square law and marvel at how you can apply such a mathematical rule to portrait photography.

But to get started, one really important thing is enough: Avoid the midday sun like the devil the famous holy water!

Midday sun is tough light that comes from high above. No matter how beautiful your subject is, it won’t do him any good in the photo. If you do not have a lot of experience and have not yet dealt intensively with the subject of light, it is easy to despair.

It is best to go out in the morning or in the late afternoon when the sun is still or is already low. That is much softer light and it does not come from high above. And then do not always try to have the sun on your back, but try different angles or perspectives.

Let the sun stand behind the subject. If you then use the spot metering and have a little patience (this can easily go wrong) you will make beautiful backlit portraits over time.

Settings and the tech stuff

Shoot campers and photographers see effect before effort, especially in portrait photography. The camera is supposed to be a tool to achieve your goal. Not the main subject. Two people play the main role here – your motive and you.

Therefore, concentrate on the essentials on the technical side:

– An open aperture helps you with the blurring in the background and thus separates the subject from the background. This draws attention to the subject and is good for the eye.

– The eye that is closest to the camera should focus especially with an open aperture, it may be that in a slightly oblique face not both eyes 100% in focus. As long as the eye closest to the camera is in focus, everything feels right.

– “Spot” exposure metering method. Mostly, photographers are fan of center-weighted metering and correct with exposure compensation if necessary. You should make the exception for portraits in natural light and use spot metering. This will prevent the background from influencing the exposure too much. After all, there is a clear main subject, the face and that should be properly exposed.


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