There’s a discussion in portrait photography circles about whether it’s better to use a studio, and thus have complete control of the lighting, or better to use the natural light outdoors. I’ll use some examples from a recent family portrait shoot at my portrait photography studio near Swindon to show why I use both.
I’ve got lots of studio lights to choose from, although most of the time I try and keep my lighting simple. This makes it easier (and faster) to set up, and gives me greater flexibility as to where I place the person who is being photographed. That flexibility is more important with kids, who tend to be more energetic than adults.
This portrait uses 2 lights. She’s looking towards a large softbox, and the second light is to my left brightening the right side of her face. She’s got a really good enigmatic expression, and there’s good separation between her and the softly out of focus grey background.
The same two lights were used for this shot of her brother. He’s looking out at the camera so there are 2 catch lights in his eyes. He was doing some excellent dance moves in the studio, so I put in a spot lighting effect when I was editing the images in Photoshop and punched the colour up a bit.
That’s the studio, what about outdoors?
The weather on the day of the portrait shoot was sunny. Placing people in direct bright sunlight can give hard shadows, so here I’ve put him in what’s called “top shade”. He’s out of the direct sun but there’s soft reflected sunlight on his face. He’s quite a way from the background so it’s rendered quite out of focus.
His sister, under the same beautiful “top shade” lighting, is much closer to the background so there’s still a lot of detail in it. The texture of the wood acts as an excellent contrast to her pale skin and blond hair. Her dark top absorbed light and gave some extra modelling to the right side of her face.
They also brought their dog along to the shoot. I wonder what he thought of it all?
So, studio or outdoors? As you can see the studio gives great results, and the great outdoors gives images that complement those from the studio. Using both gives me the best of both worlds!