The Natural Portrait: Making Beautiful Portraits in Natural Light

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The Natural Portrait ebook cover

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

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.

The Natural Portrait ebook

Case studies

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:

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

The Natural Portrait ebook

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4 Responses to “The Natural Portrait: Making Beautiful Portraits in Natural Light”

  1. Mike says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I bought this ebook earlier today and haven’t been able to put it down! It’s an excellent book that does exactly what you say in showing how to take portraits using the camera and lenses I’ve already got with no real need to buy anything else. The Natural Portrait is refreshing in this respect, two other ebooks I bought on “natural portraits” turned out to be more about gear than technique.

    For the past 20 odd years my photography has been about landscapes and urban scenes, l’ve haven’t taken any serious pictures of people for all of the reasons you state in the book and a few more, however all that is about to change. This year I’m moving to a more project based approach and one of the themes I have chosen will mean taking portraits and people in general. The Natural Portrait is really going to help in my new venture, as will posts here on taking portraits. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience.

    • Hi Mike, I’m really glad you like the ebook and find it useful. Good luck with your new venture and your portraits. I have some exciting interviews with portrait photographers planned for my website, so keep an eye out for them.

  2. I would like to tell you that I really enjoyed reading your last ebook, The Natural Portrait. This picture was taken in natural light http://500px.com/photo/59220186. There was a big window illuminating this young lady and the quality of light was excellent even if the quantity of light was low. I would have normally used my flash for this kind of portrait because of the low light condition but I followed your advice and pushed the ISO to 6400 and shot it without flash. I was really pleased with the results. I was also attracted by the blue background and my 70-200 mm zoom helped me eliminating distracting elements around her. I retouched this image with lightroom 5 following your advice in your Ebook. It took me just a few minutes to soften her skin, to whiten her teeths and to enhance her eyes. I really like the way you approach portrait photography. It’s simple, fast and fun. You can have great results without complicated setup. It really fit my way of photographing. Sometimes, you get overhelmed by all the pro tips and fancy lighting you see on the Internet and you think it’s the only way to go to have great shots. I’m happy to see and to learn from professionnal like you that you can produce great portraits with simple technique and have time to communicate and have fun with your subjects. Once again, thank you for writing this great Ebook !!!

    • Hi Louis, thanks for sharing your photo and I’m really glad you found the ebook useful. One of the reasons I wrote the ebook was because using natural light is very easy and fast, and lets you concentrate on building a rapport with your model and achieving a strong composition. Adding flash and other more technical stuff can come later when you have learnt the basic skills and have more confidence. Great to see you’re having fun!

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