How to Shoot Light & Airy Portraits

Today we’re gonna talk about how to shoot for a light and airy look. There’s a few workflows to achieve this look without using all that highlight detail. Today, we’re gonna talk about the shooting part of that workflow, and in the next video, I’m gonna dive into the editing. Number one: looking for the beautiful light. By beautiful light, I mean that nice, soft quality of light, where it’s not too contrasty, the shadows aren’t too deep, and it’s generally even between the subject and the background. There are some things that are kind of out of our control. For instance, I live in Vegas, where most it’s days it’s just bright sun and blue sky. I don’t get as much of those puffy clouds that kind of just filter the light in a really soft way.

Regardless of the weather, I’m always finding a way to bring in that atmosphere, and create that really beautiful soft look. Number two: look for, and use, neutral-colored, natural reflectors. You can use walls, or you can use the ground, if you have concrete. I’ll often use the desert when I’m out in the desert environments. Anything that has kind of a neutral color to it that can reflect light back into the shadow part of your images will help create that really soft, even look on your subjects. Key to this is to look for ‘neutral’ colored walls. For instance, if you have a red wall, it’s gonna reflect that red color cast back on your subject. Number three: shoot backlight. When shooting outdoors, in the sunshine, I’ll almost always place my subject with their back to the sun, or I’ll angle them just off to the sun so it spills over their shoulder, into my lens, and gives beautiful flares or kind of a warm wash to the images.

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This is a great tip for shooting midday ’cause if you put the sun behind your subject, it’ll soften everything usually and have a nicer look than that harsh light hitting their faces. I’ll usually only shoot front-lit after the sun has dipped below the horizon and the sun has set. Number four: look for clean backgrounds. Usually for this I’m going to avoid where I have spotty light, or really messy things in the background of my image. Sometimes I’ll just kind of move my subjects, or I might go as far as, if there’s something that’s distracting in the background of my image, I will just walk over and move it. Pay real close attention to every little detail of the image not just what’s in your foreground, but everything that’s in the background and how it’s helping frame your subject, will make the images stronger, and that clean look helps give that really soft look to the images.

I’ll pay attention to if there’s a mountain or some sort of clean color, or something that I can frame my subject within the image, so they’re not just against sky, or not just against white, that will help frame them and give a little bit more dimension to the image, and help it from blowing out if your background is a bit brighter than the subject. Number five: your background focus. We’re going for those beautiful creamy, out-of-focus backgrounds. This is controlled by two things, the first being your lens choice. You’re looking for those long lenses, such as the 70-200mm zoomed all the way at 200mm to create that beautiful effect in your backgrounds.

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Or you’re gonna be paying attention to aperture, and shooting wide-open, at your lowest aperture, a 1.4, 1.2, to create that beautiful bokeh in the background of your images. And then the second way is by distance. The distance between you and the subject, and the distance between the subject and the background. For that beautiful bokeh, the closer you get to your subject and also the further your subject is from the background, the more soft it will appear in the image. Number six: shoot in manual and RAW. Shoot manuals so that you can really control and dial in every aspect of your image, and the RAW will allow you to retain as much detail as possible, which you’ll see is super helpful to have when we dive into the post-processing. Number seven: under expose slightly. Now with digital you lose highlight details really easily. Even with RAW you can pull it back a little bit, but those highlight details are what gets lost. So I’ll generally expose for skin tones and the faces of my subjects, but if there’s highlight details in the images that are turning out to be a little hot, and I know that I want to keep those, I’ll under expose slightly, and then have techniques in post that I’ll use to bring in the shadow details.

Once you do this, you’ll have really beautiful images so that when you move on to the next step, which is the editing and post-processing, you’ll have lots of information. We’ll be talking about that next video, be sure to subscribe below, and hit the bell so that you get notified when it’s up. Really looking forward to it, and Bella and I will see you guys next time! Wave, yeah, yeah! Okay, now lay down..