Balancing the Exposure of the Natural Backlighting and Model

Wondering how pro photographers make their natural-light portraits look so good? Open the gate and come on in!

This portrait photography class will help you master a range of techniques when shooting with nothing more than natural light.

You’ll discover how to get stunning results using just a simple reflector and natural light. You’ll also learn how to think on your feet and adjust your settings as you shoot to compensate for the ever-changing qualities of natural light.

This class will teach you that with the right location and conditions, simple and affordable accessories can help you capture a magical shot like this one.

In this class:

  • Portrait photography using natural light
  • How to use natural light for outdoor portraits
  • Affordable accessories for photography
  • How to use a reflector for outdoor portraiture
  • How to balance natural light
  • Creative composition for outdoor portrait photography

If you enjoy this class, try Opportunity Photography and Autumnal Orchard.

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.

© Karl Taylor

© Karl Taylor


      1. Hi Karl, loving the content; thank you for all the effort you put into this platform. I’ve got a Canon M50, and I would like to practice what I’m learning in portrait; which lens do you recommend for my camera?

        1. Hi and thank you for your comments. The M50 is an APS size sensor so the Canon lenses that are suited to it come from this range: known as EF-S lenses. However as you can see there is a large choice from super wide angle right up to telephoto and each one is suited to a different type of photography. So to recommend a lens for your camera you would first have to tell me what type of photography you are most interested in, for example is it portraiture, is it landscape, is it wildlife etc etc. If you click on some of the lenses in the link it will also probably outline its main type of use and our classes (Introduciton to Photography) and some of the other classes in this section will help give you an idea but do come back to me with what type of photography you are most interested in and I will give you some pointers, just keep in mind that there isn’t one lens that is good for everything. Most photographers work with at least 2 lenses and often many more.

  1. Hi Karl!

    i really like all your classes and i’d like to ask you the following question please..
    i have a canon 5d SR and canon 100mm/F2.8. my question is how should i setup my camera focus / metering /focus/ point to have sharp images on the model’s face during an outdoor session?

    appreciate your response!

    1. Hi Emad, the camera’s autofocusing systems is one of the best and outdoors you will have plenty of light for it to work accurately. Models obviously move as does the photographer but with good technique you can either select the focus point or let the camera zone of focus find the correct focus. If the camera has eye tracking focus then that would be perfect but I’m not sure that model camera does. The lens sounds like it is Macro lens but it works well at distance too but there might be a switch on the side of it for MF or AF and also for Macro and non Macro. Best of luck Karl.

  2. LOVE THE VIDEO and such beautiful tips that we often miss otherwise.

    Just thought to check: you clicked the last few images at 1/4000 of the second. Doesn’t it cause a shake in the image? Kindly simplify the logic in a few lines so that I can keep that in mind.

    1. Hi, 1/4000th of a second is a very fast shutter speed so this would mean there would be no shake? Did you mean 1/40th of a seccond which is quite a slow shutter speed? If you are careful and you and your subject are quite still and you are not using a telephoto lens then it is possible to shoot handheld to 1/20th with practise. The general rule is not to use a shutter speed less than your focal length. So for example if you were using a 50mm lens then it would be best to use shutter speeds of 1/50th and above to avoid possible camera shake.

  3. Hello Karl, I appreciate every work you produce.

    On this, something puzzles me, still. You’ve been shooting at 1/4000s to have details in the background. But now let’s say you had to darken a bit more, would the light reflected on the model be affected accordingly?

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi, yes she would. All of the light here is ‘ambient’ light only – that is the light is all natural light from the sun/sky/clouds and the light that is on the model’s face is from the reflector that is bouncing light back from the sun/sky/clouds. The only way to change the exposure level on the models face compared to the rest of the scene is to change the angle of the reflector to make it more effective or to move it closer. If everything was exaclty the same and we made the shutter speed (or aperture) create less exposure then we would also have less exposure on the model.

  4. Hello Karl,

    In the video I can see the sky is bright and washed out but in the amazing final photo, I can see nice clouds. Is that caused by the 1/4000 shutter speed ?


    1. Hi Dundy, the recording latitude of the stills camera shooting in RAW is greater than that of the video camera which means you can get more shadow and highlight detail from the image file. The video guy was also most of the time exposing for me presenting the video and I was dressed in dark clothes on the shadow side with no reflector on me which meant the video guy had to lift his exposure to get me correctly which meant he was actually mostly overexposed on the model which would have pushed his sky exposure over. See also some of our videos using graduated filters with flash for solving overexposed skies and models.

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