Quick Natural Light Tip for Photographers | Leighton DaCosta. Miami Fashion Photographer

Behind the Scenes: Howard Levy holds the reflector as high as possible to mimic the natural fall of light from the sun. I am still able to use the sun to back light my model creating great separation from the background and some nice rim lighting.

I posted the leading image this morning on my Instagram feed of a session that we were doing. I was asked by a few photographers, why was my assistant holding the reflector so high? So I wanted to start the discussion. 

Natural light while soft, often leads images to have a "flat" look to them.

Many photographers use "natural" or available light. Personally I've always hated that term, because as seasoned photographers will tell you, "Light is Light." Doesn't matter whether "natural" or artificial. Natural light, depending on the time of day, gives a light quality that is often hard to duplicate. For many photographers, especially those early on in their photographic journey, we get stuck looking mostly at the quantity of light, not the quality of light. That is, all we care about is exposure. Our lighting ratio is pretty much one to none, because all we have is the sun, right? 

Using natural light often gives ample light quantity as pictured, but the quality of light often leaves images looking flat. For this reason, experienced photographers will usually invest in a reflector kit which allows the photographer to add additional light onto a subject. This additional lighting is known as "Fill" and can be created by reflectors, flashes, and other forms of artificial lighting. 

By using a reflector, I have now added light in the shadowed portions of the subject's face, but also allows for the light to "embellish" shadows to give the subject more definition in the face.

I have noticed, and have been guilty of it myself, assistants usually holding a reflector low so the reflected light comes from below the subject and causing the light to bounce back up to the subject. The light direction of the bounce is usually inconsequential, because usually the bounced light is about a stop of exposure below the ambient.

On bright sunny days, because of the harsh shadows that the sun may leave on a face, any fill light in the face may be welcomed. But what about when your subject is standing in the shade and the background is out in the open? That uplighting bounced back into the subject's face can look like an old horror movie. Something affectionately call, "Frankenlighting."

To prevent the Frankenlighting and create a more pleasant fill, hold the reflector as high as possible, while bouncing light on the subject. This mimics what our eyes usually see. That is the natural fall of light from high to low, not the other way around. This may make sense to you if you use artificial lighting, because it is the same as you would do with a light on a light stand. 

Elevation gives you the ability to get a nice, natural light fall on the face, causing the shadows to go downward. Another tip with this, is that you can control the "hardness" of the light by moving the reflector further away from the subject or closer to the subject to make the light softer.  

The easiest reflectors to elevate are those with a rigid frame. I use the Lastolite 30" tri grip. For a little more, you can get the exciting line from Profoto which gives you several different options and are square in nature, giving a much larger reflective surface. There is also the internationally acclaimed, California Sunbounce, which not only gives you large surface area, but a rigid frame that makes it easier for one person, or even a weighted boom arm to hold. 

What are some things that you have done to modify and control the light while using natural light? Please comment below.

Good Luck, 



Unretouched, this image illustrates how with a little technique, natural lighting doesn't always have to be a handicap and can often give you looks similar to flash.