From Jimmy Chin's MasterClass

On Location: Portraits and Natural Light

The photoshoot continues as Jimmy leads you through an outdoor portrait session with Conrad and teaches you how he thinks about using natural light.

Topics include: On Location: Portraits and Natural Light


The photoshoot continues as Jimmy leads you through an outdoor portrait session with Conrad and teaches you how he thinks about using natural light.

Topics include: On Location: Portraits and Natural Light

Jimmy Chin

Teaches Adventure Photography

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JIMMY CHIN: Shooting outdoors means that you're shooting in natural light. You can bring lights. But in general, when I'm out in the mountains, moving around, climbing, or what have you, I'm not carrying a set of lights. So you're really working with natural light. You're really working with the sun. When you have a shoot in mind and you know where the location is, you know, the first thing you probably want to understand is, when is sunrise, when it's sunset? Go ahead, Conrad. The best light is always early in the morning or late in the evening as the sun is setting. For instance, if you're in the mountains, the different ridge lines, it gives contrasts and shadows and really kind of pops shapes. That's good, Conrad. Maybe not a big lean. There you go. Can you switch hands? - Yeah. JIMMY CHIN: Midday sun is tough shooting conditions. You know, it's top-down light. It's really harsh. There's weird shadows. OK, good. This is standing there. It can really flatten the look of a landscape. So you're really aiming to shoot early in the morning or in the evening. Definitely looking for that golden light, that beautiful soft light at sunrise and sunset. OK, I'm going to move way back, if that's possible. Light is really everything. And if you can't control it, you really have to be able to anticipate it and know what you want from it. What direction is the light coming from? Yeah, Conrad, you can coil again. - Same hand or other hand? JIMMY CHIN: Other hand's fine. Do you want the subject frontlit, or do you want the subject backlit, or do you want the subject sidelit? Maybe go up right. Walk up a little. And those are things that you should be thinking about and being intentional about in your decisions of what you're shooting and when you're shooting. Oftentimes, no matter how much homework you do and how much anticipation and time you spend thinking about the light and where it's going to be and what it's going to do, you don't get the light. That's when you have to pivot, and you have to think about, OK, well, what is the best thing that I can do with this light? We're just scrambling for that last light. But now that it's gone, I think we should go up high. And we'll just get a bigger wide shot. OK. I think maybe let's start off with some-- your face. - I'm coiling rope. Oh, yeah. I mean, when you have the big jobs that need to sell chewing gum and insurance premiums, coiling rope is where you go. - So this is a classic scenario, where we were trying to do a few different scenarios. We lost the light a little bit earlier than we anticipated, only because we were more focused on getting a couple of shots that we wanted on the climb. The backlit light left. So we kind of have to work with what we have. Right now, it's really nice soft light, and really saturated. So instead of kind of pulling back for the big, wide shots, we're really going to focus a little bit more on portraits. This i...

Push the limits of your photography

Jimmy Chin has built his career taking photos at the top of the world, earning him the cover of National Geographic and multiple awards. Now he’s taking you on location to teach you techniques for capturing breathtaking shots. In his photography class, learn different creative approaches for commercial shoots, editorial spreads, and passion projects. Gather the gear—and the perspective—to bring your photography to new heights.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

I love your high quality of work in photography. For me, it takes a lot of practice.

I found the video of the actual shoot really helpful, being able to see Chin's thought process for selecting lenses was quite useful.

I photograph a much different place, in fact, you could consider underwater photography the opposite of mountain photography, but so many of the wise words Jimmy shares with us are applicable and appreciated. Thanks Jimmy!

Jimmy did a great job outlining his process and gave visual examples and details as he went through all the steps of a typical mountain photo shoot. One of the major struggles for photographers trying to leap into the professional arena is getting corporate sponsorship. One of my greatest take away's is the information he gave for working with sponsors and large companies.


Carole A.

Too bad the photo examples did not specify ISO on each shot. Otherwise excellent production.

A fellow student

I always thought it was best practice to have more space in front of the subject so I found it interesting there were so many photos with the subject looking toward the end of the frame and the landscape to their back. Not that it is a hard and fast rule (obviously the professional photographer would know to do it right). It just always looks distracting to me with the subject looking away from the awesome scenery and instead looking at something else we can't see. Am I wrong on this? I needed that eye trick. So many photos where I thought it looked great only to get home and see a perfectly focused...forehead. I love the idea of playing with light! I need to take advantage of more of those alpine starts instead of only taking photos at the top.

A fellow student

Very helpful! I really learned a lot from your movement as well as underexposing his face and leaving that element for post-production. I thoroughly enjoy landscape shots, but I still struggle with portraits so this lesson was great!

A fellow student

Lots of great information and tips on portrait photos and natural light. I even noticed how you complimented Conrad to keep him at ease when shooting his photos. Can't wait to learn more! **The PDF link seems to be broken unfortunately** Hopefully someone sees this and can fix it. Thanks!

Jim C.

Good tip on the moving slightly back and forth to make sure eye is in focus. My eyes have always sucked so when autofocus came about it changed my life.

Samuel H.

Loving this class. Thanks so much, Jimmy. Photo: Chris @ Red River Gorge, Nov '18. 1/250 @ f/6.3, IS0 200.

Meg N.

Do I ever really NEED this class RIGHT NOW!!! I can pitch magazine articles but unless I can supply the right kind of photos, I don't get the assignment. I'm not at the tech level here, but the comments and suggestions on lighting are both great and useful. Lighting is particularly important where the final use will be b/w, not color - the color will draw my eye and upset what needs to be done for a good b/w shot. I am looking forward to learning a LOT more in this class!

Ricardo A.

What a great way to see how Jimmy thinks about his outdoor portraiture. To me the biggest lesson is "just go!"

Grant B.

Appreciate them showing every shot and proving that I'm not the only one who misses focus with the 50L on occasion :-). This class is already beating Annie Leibovitz's class.

Joo Ann T.

Applying Jimmy's lesson on light play & shadows for background, centre subject and foreground.