This is probably one of the best articles I have read on taking natural light portraits.
I plan on spending the next few days shooting with natural light only and perfecting the use of this tip.
My first impression of this article was that it made perfect sense. I cannot believe I haven’t been doing this all along. I have to give credit to Fstoppers and in particular for this great article on natural light portraiture.
The image below is a before and after using this technique.
In most cases when shooting portraits with natural light only, the background comes out very bright. Technically speaking, when taking a photograph using natural light, the exposure is generally set for the subject’s skin tone, which is typically darker than the background. If achieving that dark background and having perfect lighting on the skin is important, the key is to underexpose the image. This will not only result in perfectly lit skin but it will also help retain the most detail. It is a lot easier to recover shadows than highlights. Contrary to popular belief, bringing out details from an underexposed RAW file does not mean creating noise when it’s done properly. In this day and age, any DSLR on the market can handle bringing out details from the shadows without creating noise. Using the following steps, it is guaranteed to walk away with phenomenal results.
Before I get to the steps, it is important to address a popular concern. Have in mind when looking closely at the final results; the subject continues to look underexposed. Parts of the skin were lightened to make it appear properly expose. This draws the viewer straight to the subject’s face, as it is the brightest part of the portrait.
Why Not Just Get the Exposure Right in Camera?
Technically, underexposing IS getting it right in camera. If the goal is to achieve that dark background that generally only comes with artificial lighting, it is less work in post-production to lighten the subject. There is no argument here; the skin makes up 10% of the image and the background is 90%. Lightening the skin is undoubtedly easier than darkening the background in post.
Image Source: Dani Diamond