Desmond Louw offers advice on using natural light from doors, windows or other large openings for great soft-light portraits.

Written By Desmond Louw.

Shooting portraits can be very tricky, especially when it comes to lighting them. You can spend ages setting up the lights and it could be very costly buying/renting the right equipment. As a location and wedding photographer I like to or have to work quickly to get great results. So I have a cool tip for you that I try to use every time I have the opportunity. It’s quick and free!

It’s simple: when you have a dark room/space with a open door that leads to the outside on a sunny day, let your subject stand about a meter from the entrance on the inside. The light that comes in is so soft and lovely – its AWESOME! You also don’t have to worry about slow shutter speeds so you can push that aperture wide open!

[The science behind this is also pretty simple. The larger your light source is, i.e. a barn door opening, the softer the shadows will be, and hence the softer the light/effect. Think about a speedlight – small light source, hard shadows. Then look at a softbox – larger lightsource, softer shadows. This is relative though – a 1 meter diameter spotlight at a distance of 100 meters becomes a very hard light, despite actually being bigger than a speedlight. – Ed]

I have used this technique at staircases, huge garage doors, a train tunnel, at a barn – look out for one if you are shooting a wedding on a farm!

Here’s some photos taken using this technique:

Guest post by Desmond Louw. Desmond is a Cape Town based photographer specialising in wedding and automotive photography.