Arts & Entertainment, Design & Style

Demo: Shooting Outdoors With Natural Light

Tyler Mitchell

Lesson time 09:00 min

When shooting outside, a photographer is subject to changes in weather and the movement of the sun. Tyler shows you how he works with changing light quality and explains how it affects his images.

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

Topics include: Consider Your Environment


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Natural light is, I think, the most useful when you embrace it. The freedom of it does come with being able to work with where it is. I mean, it's going to affect differently whether you're facing east, north, south, west, and the time of day. It really is about working with something that's already there and trying to change that rather than building something from the ground up. So it's freeing in that way. Light coming from directly overhead can create pretty unflattering shadows on people's faces. So you want to avoid the hours in the day where the sun is the most high, like between 10:00 and 2:00. Ideally you're doing it before or after those hours, maybe 11:00 and 1:00. And you want to embrace it. You want to use natural light to be hopefully frontlit and to support somebody's facial features. For outdoors, I'm looking at their face. I'm looking at what kind of shape it's creating, whether it's lighting up their whole face, whether it's coming from the side, whether it's behind them. Those are the things I'm thinking about. Now we've moved from inside where we were using natural light with a window to outside on the balcony. It'll be good to see just what the sun does with no window. As you can see, the sun's behind me. So we can take a look at what backlighting will do to a model. We can take a look at what side lighting will do. Where I have Jess right now, the key light is the sun. The key light is whatever the main light source of a picture is. And it's coming right in through this balcony and it's coming right in on her face. It's creating a shadow on the wall. And it's just illuminating our whole image. The fill light in this sense, there wouldn't be a fill light. But the fill light is the return of the wall back on to her. Another thing is that today is a partly cloudy day. So when you're taking pictures in general, you want to think about what the weather is. When there's clouds kind of passing like right now, the sun will be going in and out between harsh sun and softer sun when a cloud covers. Both are different looks and both have different advantages and disadvantages. Cloudy is going to give a softer look on somebody's face overall. When it's sunny and the sun is high, you're going to get these kind of eyelash shadows and eye shadows, which are just less appealing. And not that either is wrong or right, but that's just going to give you a different desired effects. The most important thing to shooting natural light is to observe the sun and to think about what you like or don't like about what it's doing. It's by using your eyes and by observing faces, how you like faces to look, how they look in the sun, how they look when it's sunset, how they look when it's sunrise. You know, when you're with your friends, just look around and even use your hand to test and see what looks best to your eye. A cloud's about to pass. So you can even see how when we look towards ...

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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