Design & Style, Arts & Entertainment

On Location: Portraits and Natural Light

Jimmy Chin

Lesson time 10:13 min

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

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

Topics include: On Location: Portraits and Natural Light


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...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured MasterClass Instructor

Jimmy Chin

National Geographic photographer teaches his techniques for planning, capturing, and editing breathtaking photos.

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