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Portrait Photography Tips – Effects of Lighting

Whoever decided to put the flash of a camera facing directly forward was not a portrait photographer. The following portrait photography tips are meant to put some perspective on lighting.

The Harshness of Direct Flash

The reason it is not a good idea to have a flash pointed directly at the subject in portrait photography is that the intense burst of light tends to wash out any curvature or shadow in the face and makes the subject appear to be flatter than they are. This gives an unnatural look.

If you are using a boot shaped flash, the mount should allow you to adjust the direction of the flash. Angle the flash upwards and bounce the light off of the ceiling. This will diffuse the light and result in a more natural and appealing looking portrait.

If your flash direction is not adjustable, you may have to use a physical object to diffuse the light in the same way that a lampshade diffuses the light coming from a lamp. There are many mountable diffusers on the market. If you are at a get together and do not have a diffuser, a semi-transparent plastic cup can work in a pinch.

Soft Box

If you have time to prepare the area that you will be shooting the portrait in, you may want to bring along a standing light source such as a soft box. A soft box is simply a white box, often framed with wood with either thin muslin or rice paper stretched over it. There are quick collapsible ones on the market but they are pretty easy to make.

This box acts as a diffuser for a permanent or flash/strobe light that can be moved to different positions in order to get rid of or accent shadows while still resulting in a more natural look.


Unless you are shooting in a studio where you just have the subject sit and smile after the lighting has been preset, you will want to be able to move your light sources around. Many boot flashes offer remote capability so they can be removed from the camera and held to the side. This capability is great for shooting semi-candid portraits.

When shooting outdoors, your light source may be the sun. Though they often require assistance, light reflectors work great for manipulating the lighting here and softening the harsh shadows that direct sunlight often creates. Again, there are many of these on the market; I actually use a collapsible light reflector that is intended for car windshields.

I hope these portrait photography tips have helped explain the effects of direct lighting and how it can be easily manipulated for more natural looking results.

Lifestyle Portrait Photography

Lifestyle portrait photography offers an alternative to stuffy or repetitive studio photography, allowing you to create pictures full of life and personality in your own home or a place close to your heart.

Studio portrait photography isn’t for everyone – sometimes it’s hard to relax in an unfamiliar environment, especially when you have an expensive camera pointed at you! Having a portrait photography session in a studio also limits you to one or two backdrops, usually plain, and a few accessories or props that can give a staged feel to your images. And if you’re attempting to have photographs taken of your kids then sometimes a studio environment is a recipe for disaster: some children might be too shy in a strange new place, others will see it as an opportunity for mayhem and destruction! So what do you do when you want natural, beautiful portrait photos of you and your family but don’t want to go to a studio?

Lifestyle photography is a different way to obtain solo or group portraits that removes the unfamiliar enclosed space of a studio and allows you to roam free in your own environment, making for a far more relaxed atmosphere. And the more relaxed a subject is, the better the photos! Lifestyle portrait photography means your photos are taken on location, either at your home or another place that is special to you – perhaps a holiday home, garden or park. Your shots will be unposed and natural, producing candid images that reflect your personality and mood, as well as capturing your favourite place as a backdrop.

Treasure those special moments in a place that you love and capture a moment in time in a space that means something extra special to you and your family. Indoor or out, lifestyle photography is a wonderful way to move away from traditional or classic studio photography portraits and create something freer and more fluid.

From solo portraits to families, babies to teenagers, or even your pet, lifestyle portrait photography always produces brilliantly natural images with relaxed, happy subjects. Allow your portrait photographer to snap away while you relax, play, read, eat, work or just enjoy your favourite view. You can even invite your photographer along to a special event or to visit your favourite attraction or location. From a walk in the woods to a trip to the pool, rain or shine, whatever season, lifestyle photography is a great option for people who want more than posing in front of a white background.