Arts & Entertainment, Design & Style

Demo: Shooting Indoors With Natural Light

Tyler Mitchell

Lesson time 08:23 min

By getting creative with household items—think sheets and shower curtains—a photographer can adapt to any lighting condition. Tyler demonstrates how to manipulate natural light and make professional portraits using only a smartphone.

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

Topics include: Manipulating Natural Light · Working With Models · Composing Images


[MUSIC PLAYING] So for this shoot, we're going to be taking some photographs in natural light. We've got this gallery space behind me and we have a balcony out to the side where we're going to do some demonstrations with a model that I work with, Jess Cole. I'm going to use the camera app on my smartphone. And while you can go in and make adjustments to exposure or shoot with filters, I just like to use the factory settings. Part of why I wanted to use my smartphone for this demonstration was to show just how easy and accessible it is to use what's in your pocket to make a nice portrait, especially in natural light. You're mainly looking for the sun. And it's about your subject, the connection with your subject, and what the light's doing. The main objective is to show how you can cut light, bounce light, and essentially manipulate natural light to make a nice portrait of anyone. [MUSIC PLAYING] When you walk into a room that's lit up with natural light, like we are here, there's a couple of things you can do. First, look at what your windows are. We have two windows here. And we're using both to basically light her up. And I'm going to shoot her against this wall. One thing to think about when you're using windows for natural light is what you can see here is that the sun is coming in pretty strong. If you look at her clothes, the shadows are strong. And that's definitely a look if that's what you want. But for now, I want to diffuse it to make it a little softer. And actually, Jess, let's scoot you closer to the window. So see, I'm looking at her face and see how, especially when you're closer to the window, the shadow is going to be much darker on this side, it's going to be much stronger on this side. That's a lot of contrast, essentially. So to diffuse it, I'll just bring down the diffusion. You can already see the difference there and how things round out on her face, things kind of evened out all around. So for me, I prefer the diffusion look. So when I bring that down, and now even that it's gotten overcast, you get a much softer look overall. [MUSIC PLAYING] When a model is very, very close to the window, the shadow side of his or her face is going to be much more exaggeratedly shadowy. So Jess, if we bring you kind of over more, yeah, you can see the shadow side of her face is slightly brighter. If we're indoors and we're using natural light from a window, I like to really make sure that we can feel the light hitting the person's face, but also think about shadow. So when we're up against the wall close, there's going to be a very close wall shadow from the model onto the wall. So also think about the way that the light throws shadows around in the room. Another thing that we've done is we've brought in just a little bounce. So you can use anything white. It can be any kind of white card or whatever you've got in your house, basically, to bounce in light from this window. And ...

About the Instructor

A revolutionary talent, Tyler Mitchell made history as the first Black photographer to shoot an American Vogue cover, work that is part of the Smithsonian’s permanent collection. Now he’s sharing his process with you. Discover how to create and compose striking portraits, work with natural light and shadow, and tell a compelling story through your photos—even if the only equipment you have is your phone.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Tyler Mitchell

History-making photographer Tyler Mitchell teaches you his artistic process for creating compelling images with any kind of camera.

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