Is it possible to get quality shots without studio lighting? Well you can be the judge of that, but I'd like to think so ;). For my shoot with the lovely miss Jessica, I positioned her near a large window, so we had a lot of natural light that illuminated her face really nicely.
Now don't get me wrong, I didn't just use natural lighting for this shoot. I also used a Speedlite 580EXII as a fill light by bouncing it off the walls. Confused? What I mean is, I pointed my speedlite up toward the ceiling or side walls to bounce the light coming from the flash off the wall and back onto Jessica, to illuminate the areas that needed a bit more light. Without it, there would've been too much contrast between the lit areas and shadowed parts. I never pointed the flash directly at her (a big no-no unless you use a diffuser to soften the light), because the light would have been too harsh.
I wanted a soft flattering light for this shoot, but if I had chosen to go for a darker mood, perhaps just using black and white, then more contrast may have looked cool. Just pay attention to the shadows in your images to see whether they're adding to or taking away from the feel of your photo.
I shot with a Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens to get this shallow depth of field (Jessica's hand appears blurry while her face, which is quite close to her hand, is in focus). It was a very cold, rainy day (big surprise for Vancouver), and Jessica wasn't all that keen to touch the freezing window, but this ended up being one of her favourite shots, so I'm glad she stuck it out! Thanks Jess!
Overcast days may not seem like the best times for photo shoots, but the lighting is actually good because it's not as intense as a sunny day. In fact, avoid shooting midday unless it's overcast. Your subject may end up looking washed out!
Although it was chilly by the big window, it was worth it. Why? Big catchlights! See that lovely sparkle in Jessica's eye in the photo above? That's called a catchlight. Any light that hits the eyes can cause this, whether it's light coming from a window, flash, lightbulb, anywhere. You just need to play around with your subject's positioning to get the right angle for the light to be visible in the eye.
Always aim to get catchlights in the eyes! They makes your subject come alive!
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