Making the perfect portrait with any kind of camera

In simple window light!If you have read any of my tutorials here, you will already know that the camera’s function is to record light.

There are two types of light, natural light and electric. When photographing people, your best quality light will be natural light but not always convenient. What you want to look for is open shade weather you are indoors or out, natural light is it. Open shade is indirect sunlight such as at dusk when the sun is going down behind the hills or early morning but you are not limited to. You can use an open garage door with a background, open sliding glass door, even a window can produce amazing portraits with any camera. Just knowing where the quality of the light is, is the trick. You want it to be the brightest part of the open shade. With these choices you can do high key to low key lighting in your images.

You also would want to consider the angle of the light source. High noon is a nightmare for a photographer to go out and shoot a wedding. In this sample you will see there is very little direction of light, there is almost always hot spots in the background which take over the attention of the subject and throws off your exposure unless you are using a metering mode. Even with the metering mode it will only expose for your subject not the background. Choosing your background is also very important in a portrait.

Here is a sample of what it would look like mid day without flash. In this case I was able to avoid that with a darker background of flowers to prevent completely blowing out highlights and able to fill flash to brighten the shadows so I could at least get the shot on this trip we were on, and didn’t have a choice in time of day.


as you can see if I hadn’t of fill flashed, the direct harsh sun will take over your image making it dull, if not worse then the sample I have provided. Now YOUR goal is to have the “perfect portrait” right? So we need to choose the right time of day for this.

So let’s talk about what we have learned so far

Open Shade

Knowing where the quality light its in the open shade

Lighting coming from an angle, gives you some dimension

and now

When photographing people, since you have the lighting coming from an angle, you don’t want to place your subject straight on with the light right? This will result in flat lifeless flat images.  You need to bring out the life in the subject.  If you photograph your subject from an angle of the light source you will see a more dimensional photograph. You surely don’t want a mug shot.

Here is what I call my home studio, lol. It really isn’t a studio but this spot in my dining room has given me many many wonderful portraits of my children through the years.  I can take a sheet and use it for a backdrop, I sit them in front of the entertainment center that I use for a book case and a product photography studio, So the lighting is coming from the right to left.


When needed to fill the light on the left, I use a Dollar Tree  20×30 foam core board to bounce back to fill. I created this wonderful portrait  of my my daughter.


There are times when light has more vibrancy to it then other times. Do you see how the light is falling off to the left?   If I hadn’t of used another source of light coming from the left she would have been to dark, so by bouncing the light back onto her saved the portrait. In this area, I normally can do head shots, full body shots of my young one but the space is very tight since there is furniture around the room.

Here are some more samples from our back sliding glass door. Where the sun sets in the evening time.


You can see the molding around the faces almost like the portrait is alive, that is what they call the 3 demensional lighting.


I had already scrapped this page of his hair cut, one spot.  Great memories.


This one I over exposed a but it didn’t ruin the photograph, the white board had to of been very close to get it this bright on the left for a total fill.

One more image with the morning light coming through the front window, just enough to shine on her leaving her the complete focus of the portrait.


So I hope I have inspired YOU to get  your camera out and give it a shot! Look for open shade and take lots of shots. Most of these shots are taken during the winter months as the summer months provide such beautiful lighting for many more hours in a day to work with.

When kids are uncooperative a stuffed animal or a doll is a  non argumentative subject for practice and sometimes the jealousy kicks in and it makes them WANT to be photographed!

Good Luck!

Your comments encourage me to craft more!

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