January 15th 2014 by Andrew S Gibson
Today, Craft & Vision publish my newest ebook The Natural Portrait: Making Beautiful Portraits in Natural Light. The idea behind the ebook is to teach you to create beautiful portraits using little more than natural light and the camera and lenses that you own already.
Natural light portraits
When it comes to lighting portraits, there are three approaches you can take:
- Shoot in a studio, inside. But you need a studio space, all the equipment, and time to learn how to use it all.
- Shoot outside or inside, using flash combined with ambient light. This has become popular over the last few years thanks to the versatility of portable flash and the success of photographers like David Hobby and Joe McNally at teaching people how to use them. You can create some beautiful portraits like this, but it can also be a complicated and expensive way of working. Portable flash units cost money, and so do the accessories you need to get them working such as lighting stands, modifiers and wireless triggers.
- Shoot outside or inside, using natural light only. This is my approach. It’s the one I like best because it’s simple, easy and doesn’t require lots of equipment. This simple approach lets you concentrate on communicating with your model and building rapport. It gives you the freedom to move around and try different things. It’s liberating – and it you try it your portraits will improve dramatically.
The Natural Portrait ebook
My new ebook The Natural Portrait breaks the process of creating portraits down into nine steps:
1. Find a model. This may be intimidating if you’ve never tried it before, but it’s probably easier today than it ever has been. The internet makes it straightforward, and there are websites like Model Mayhem where you can search for people who are looking for photographers. The Natural Portrait shows you how to look for and work with models, from the initial search through to planning your first shoot and the tricky topic of model release forms.
2. Get inspired. Sometimes good ideas are hard to come by, so I’ve given you tips about generating ideas.
3. Master your camera settings. Learn how to use your camera so you can concentrate on creating portraits rather then worrying about which settings to use. This section tells you all you need to know, and encourages you to take the simple approach. It tells you which exposure modes to use, how to expose to the right for good skin tones, how to take advantage of high ISO and why you should always use Raw.
4. Select a lens. You can put the lessons in The Natural Portrait into action regardless of which lenses you have. But it helps if you own a good quality prime lens. This section explains which lenses are the best for portraits and shows you how focal length and aperture affect the perspective and feel of the final image. It tells you how to focus accurately at wide apertures, how to use wide-angle lenses as well as telephotos, and how to create beautiful bokeh.
5. Find a great location. What to look for and how to make the best of a good location when you find one.
6. Demand beautiful light. Light is the most important element of a portrait. This section explores the different types of natural light and how to utilise them. It shows you what to avoid, what to look for and how to work with the lighting conditions rather than against them. There are lots of useful tips, including a guide to using reflectors.
7. Take some photos! This section takes you by the hand and guides you through the shoot from start to finish – from deciding what sort of mood you want to create in the photo through to composition and building a rapport. There are tips on finding your own style and a posing guide to give you a head start getting the best out of your model.
8. Process your photos. This section takes you through the steps required to turn your Raw files into beautiful portraits. It covers Lightroom, Photoshop, Silver Efex Pro 2 and Perfect Portrait 2 from OnOneSoftware. It shows you how to retouch portraits, smooth skin and convert portraits to black and white.
9. Evaluate your work. This is where you take a step back, assess your work and decide what to do next. An essential part of the creative process.
There are also three case studies with portrait photographers in the ebook. I interviewed Tori Mercedes, Alba Soler and Eduardo Izquierdo. Each works with predominantly natural light, yet their styles are very different. You will learn a lot from each photographer.
The Natural Portrait
The Natural Portrait: Making Beautiful Portraits in Natural Light is available now from Craft & Vision for just $CAD20, but until 11:59 PM (PST) on January 21 it’s yours for $15. You’ll find the discount code exclusively in Craft & Vision’s newsletter The Contact Sheet, and you can get that, if you already do not, by signing up here – you’ll get the auto-responder inside the hour.
Here are some more spreads from The Natural Portrait: