Category Archives: Candid Portraits

When the Light Goes Perfect

Portrait session on the evening of June 27, 2011 on an old crabbing dock @ Hilton Head Island. Outdoor portraits in the summer almost always need to be captured in the beauty of low light at either sunrise or at – and even following – sunset. The added benefit of this time of year in coastal South Carolina is the almost daily arrival of late afternoon thunderheads diffusing the light of the setting sun even more, acting almost like a giant soft box. The two images posted below were captured within a span of perhaps five minutes. You can see the quality of the light in the sky and the effect it has on my young subject for this portrait session, Emma.

Head Shot Portraits for Twitter and Business Blogs

Professionally taken portrait head shot photographs can go a long way in projecting an entrepreneur’s personality, particularly when used as profile images on Twitter and business blog pages. I provide this service here in my home studio. The following image is from a recent session with Sara who was looking for head shot images to use with her Twitter page for her business.

One of the reasons I like doing these photography sessions here at my home location is the opportunity to use an ample amount of daylight coming through my southward facing windows. I show how this works in the Photographic Moment video tutorial that was shot this past January. It’s worth the extra effort and time it takes for me to move furniture to the side and set-up my lights and backdrops. I’ll be setting-up this arrangement again this Friday for another high school senior portrait session.

The following image was taken using just natural window light –

The Best Light for Portrait Photography

Last January when I sat for the written exam portion of my professional certification there were many, many questions pertaining to lighting ratios for portrait photography, all of which referenced strobe light systems. These lights are an important tool used in the craft of capturing portraits within the studio. I use a variety of light boxes, directional grids and umbrellas within my studio set-up, combined with three Alien Bees strobes. The system is trusted and true, delivering quality results.

But the portrait lighting technique that sometimes produces the best results is the simplest – natural, subdued light through windows. I’m fortunate enough to work in a home studio where I have access to a bank of large windows – all facing southward – within a room with a very high ceiling. Not only that but there’s also a skylight directly above that allows for even more use of natural light for indoor portrait photography.

The week following Christmas I had a session scheduled to photograph Stephen Emerick and his daughter, Shawna. Both were in need of portraits and studio shots to use for a book project they are working on to promote the retreats and workshops they present in Hocking Hills, Ohio, titled “The Nature of Life: Inner Voice Inner Light.” This portrait session provided me with the perfect opportunity to finally take advantage of the pleasing light within the central living area of my Centerville home. In the past I have completed portraits and head shots in a downstairs area near my office. What was catching my creative imagination this time was the indirect, soft light of mid-winter. The furniture was moved out of the way and my backgrounds brought upstairs. I also included a strobe or two, but only as a secondary light source. In the video tutorial below I discuss how to implement various tools for “fill light” on the sides of the subject that are facing away from the window light.

The photo shoot was a great success. The only problem is that the window light tends to fade fairly quickly during this time of year, especially if it is a longer photo shoot scheduled in the afternoon. Nonetheless it wasn’t long following that session that I had another portrait client scheduled for head shots, so for now – and probably for the next two months of winter – my backdrops, posing chairs and reflectors will remain upstairs.