- The Luminous Portrait: Capture the Beauty of Natural Light for Glowing, Flattering Photographs
- Professional Secrets for Natural Light Photography
- Direction & Quality of Light: You’re Key to Better Portrait Photography Anywhere
There are several elements that are needed to take a good portrait, and they all need to work together well. Things like proper communication with your subject and an interesting location are very important, but so are choice of focal length and aperture.
But to me, the most important element in any photograph is light. You can't do anything without it and the quality of light directly affects the quality of your images. Since photography knowledge has become so accessible and virtually everyone is free to post tips and advice online, certain myths have been formed, particularly about lighting.
Probably the most common myth is that the photographer needs to have the sun behind him. Well, it's not entirely false. If you want to play it safe, take a few portraits at sunset with the sun behind you. You'll most likely end up with a few decent shots, but they'll probably be nothing to brag about. But if you do the opposite, things will start to change. Shooting into the sun is considered a mistake, especially by beginners who read a lot and don't practice so much.
Backlighting is a technique that has been around for a very long time, but it was harder to use in film photography because of the lower contrast provided by old film and older lenses. Digital photography has taken care of that. Backlighting can be truly spectacular and flattering for your subject. The key is a proper exposure of your model.
Don't focus on the sun behind the subject, just make sure their face and clothes are correctly exposed. The beautiful, golden hair light will come as a bonus.
Here's a video of Karl Taylor demonstrating how to photograph in backlight.