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The Portrait Lighting Challenge: Natural vs Studio

Lesson 14 of 29

Shoot: Natural Light - Backlight

Sue Bryce, Felix Kunze

The Portrait Lighting Challenge: Natural vs Studio

Sue Bryce, Felix Kunze

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Lesson Info

14. Shoot: Natural Light - Backlight

Lesson Info

Shoot: Natural Light - Backlight

one of the hardest things to shoot his natural light the reason that's hard in natural light is because you never know what you're going to get and it's always shining really bright so we're gonna bring katie in and katie's already in her hollywood make up for one of the hollywood looks so it she's looking very hollywood catwalk right now you have katie is a dancer to katie and her boyfriend teach amazing lindy hop classes and she's a beautiful dancer all right what I need to do is diffuse the light get katie to stand in front of it right here and then I need to put a reflector here and a reflector here like this and then I silks for you you know what we can use the scram it's quicker yeah you know I can hang up kittens but we'll just hold up the scramble because we have it one of the later one it's quick I don't care if you use this what's quickly because it sit up here but I think if I had a kitten on the floor and you had an unpacked scrim I just took it not even I know that was my ...

that was my victory I don't need to talk about change shot that's running out of time so they're the best I need to put the shirt on all right so I need to defuse the light that's behind your put two reflectors in front of it and make a hole that I can shoot through the ultimate would be if somebody took a massive piece of foam core and kinda perfect circle and that my leans could fit through and then all my client would be looking at is a white board with a black circle you know and then hearing my voice going at those cody you do this there's a lot of light coming through this window right now so I'm going to close this no I want more light I want so are you saying it's not the amount of light but the quality of life that makes a difference the thing is is all they have to do is be able to bounce it back to here it was a rhetorical question I'm I'm in some mood at the moment and you're not getting funny e I want one of those see my seats and then I compound okay so this is probably one of the weirdest scenarios in terms ofthe hold this side of you on a walk around this is one of the way to scenarios in tunis in terms of watching me shape now tonight I want to whiteside to come all the way around to make a sorry yeah that's the one like that katie's used to sitting this out just like me I just say I have no idea what she's doing I'm like this is learning for the first alright now katie's gonna stand in there so we have to push this this way so can you see what I've done I've created a white shell around katie bouncing light back to here there it is that's it that's my natural light sit up and the thing is is all I have to do is get katie to come towards this light in away from the backlight and now the amount of light that's hitting her face is still less than the light that's behind her but if I can get that as close as possible it's still going to be two stops harder but the closer I can get it closed the gap so if she goes back to the scrim the background was white and her face is daka but if she comes you unravel up so when she's back there she's in darkness you want to come forward there stop and there was like so then she bounces into the reflector now my half reflected john okay we need to go a little bit this because she's not in the middle all right and you can come that way my half reflector can literally go like this push against me and then I'm shooting like that and this one is bouncing anything else I will take anything I can get I will stand like this and shoot with one hand balance one of my name and they put a hairdryer under my arm it's like how we used to your hollywood we used the top of a food serving tray you don't know hollywood sure yeah to bounce some light it was silver yeah it was a la rose like use this it's amazing and you know that too may is one of the biggest sold shot in my studio because this window is high I need to elevate her in order teo you know get better light so I could put her up on a box but I have to shoot up on a box um another cool thing is if we could bring the scrim down I would take katie watch the light I don't move this crime yet I would take katie down to her knees don't move it and they see how much more beautiful it's still backlit but she's not in direct light of course now I can see the screams I just dropped the scrum down far enough a ce far down as you can so I can't say so it's almost touching the floor but well actually can't go too far because you're gonna there's like a scene now and I'm going to shoot that and I'll shoot here standing up to then when I include this and I opened up more like to her face there is enough exposure there for a beautiful backlit shop now very really do I shoot the backlight and need to composite the back but if I'm in really difficult circumstances and I want to get my shot I take the shot and then I take I changed exposure I bracken the exposure and change it for the background and then I will compensate the background in order to not lose not blow out my highlights okay yeah yeah um and that line is a grady in't becomes a grady in and it's easy to furnish our big radiant so I can show you how to do that this afternoon so if that does happen so I can shoot it down here backlit looks beautiful sitting down it looks beautiful lying on your tummy but you have to have a white phone call looks beautiful standing dancing leaning against a white wall with a window behind you I have some backlight images on the keynote that I showed felix and they are not actually all on a white backlight so the image on the left nico um there's three backlight images on the keynote that I want to show look at those out so the lift one she's doing exactly that their image with the scarf she's actually sitting below the window so it's backlighting her onto a white wall no differently than this and instead of a scream this curtains the centre one she's lying on a couch with curtains behind her in the window source behind here but the back lights coming up over the couch on dh I owe the shot really to mario testino mario shot lady diana in the black pollen iq mostly natural light backlit on a white couch and it changed my life that shoot I remembered seeing that as a young photographer and I had tears in my eyes I was like I must lend this like I want to shoot like this and that's one of the biggest shoots of his career that established without doubt it was beautiful it had so much just divine mastery to it and when I saw it I just thought if if a single image just like you brits and any have shaped everything I've tried to achieve you know in my home gary marios shot of diana changed my world and I turned that day I turned my client into the light and I photographed here like this and I literally cried I sat there and and I was like yes what you know what a gift and so this is my go to I photograph a lot of photographers because they also want beautiful photographs and when you're a photographer you get picky about who you want to photograph you because she wants somebody who's going to get a good shot I photograph a lot of photographers and whenever I ask photography is how they want to be photographed every photographer not non photographer says do the backlight but they love all my backlight images photographers toe and clients just like the shot but they don't know why and so to me it's something that I think is such a powerful shot in reality shit now this is where I pushed my camera to its maximum in terms ofthe s o and in tim's off pretty much anything because there isn't a lot I can get away with here I get what I'm given so I'm going to try and work with that bright light in a perfect world I would have time next you want to come and just sit here and hold this in a perfect world I would have time to go and hang some more kittens behind so that I have time to do this katie just kick out on toe one head like what you beside you feel most could put your knees apart and kick out how come she gets a cushion she's young and now touch and then elbow back I'll be back around your body okay drop your hand down just one imposing her that sorry so just kick you hear about a little bit more drop your shoulder down that's a girl and then just touching elbow back come forward a little bit more perfect long chin towards me that's it and now chin this way slowly good girl stadia okay we're at six forty I s so a two point eight because you know that's where we like to be I'm just going to shoot a straight face up so you can see what light I'm getting I'm currently shooting at two point eight um shutter speed is it four hundred I met six forty sorry yes just kept bouncing out nice and strong all right so this is where at what I'm working with right now how does my bum look you're all right did we get that on the tether katie bring your chin that set forward that's it stay there tiny little baby smart girl all right so that two may is shino it showing up with lots of contrast but to me on the back of the camera that's instantly you can't even see the line so can you bring it all the single ones just waiting you can't see the line that's grady int on the background so I would just start working there I don't need to add any more couldn't sze to there the rest of what I do with this image is pretty much on thirty sharp okay I pretty much now stat waking on finish up on guy make it softer and I put in a fill light to my raw sewage actually is really lovely because it concentrates more of a white feel light to the front drop your blacks down drop you contrast down make it softer and this image suits the grain and it is charlotte six forty so stand up katie if she's too tall I may get you to do this thing can we get so you got a question oh yeah yeah kiddo hold it sit down and he's going to get you to hold you know what to do just curious I like you going to do that without the reference today clinton it's pretty straightforward I'm just curious how it looks lovely okay so from here stand up now she's in brighter light come towards me katie that's it so when she's in brighter light up small leaf let's gonna fall when she's in brighter light I need to get her closer to my reflector so can you covet around here both of you on the inside curving around not just the side the side yet pull it out john cert stays open lego not so much it's gotta go back to her like that see her face yeah perfect I will close to get like that in order to get through here what I want so now I'm in really bright light but let me just show you tuck your elbow back katie that's a go in ford good girl now when I shoot they when I shoot the film you are issued two stops under and when I shoot that client I shall I shoot two stops over okay now now I like it so I'm gonna wicket so I just gotta get one good shot so what I want to do katie is if you put your hands up here like this and do a little bit of a shimmy for me in this dress and I want you to look so sort of bring your hands and don't take them out of frame so bring them in maybe even let's just put them down and put your elbows back that's it maybe hold the dress at the back and your elbows tuck and said that you've got a reason to talk like your shoulders and I want you to do a little we should be like this and just a little bit of movement and see if I can pick up a swish that to go I want you to look that's it and now I want you to do that with a big smile good girl what sorry sheldon trump I came or show me I want to see that dress move good girl more now a big laughing ha ha good good perfect okay and then I'm just gonna get a shimmy and moving the light I just wanted to get a flick that smart and I think I could definitely get mohr movement in that dress and more sort of you know soft beautiful maybe what I can do is just pull that one back let's go again but I want you to move a little bit more sort of like more like yeah that's it that's it now don't smile with your teeth just look down and smile because it looks so pretty for gil that's beautiful and then you see the movement then you see what it created I think that the back light just is magical and she could this laugh and dance and I could do beauty shots you know katy turn which side you're here curl on put your hands up on the top of your head and just push your chin forward really push it input your back hand your left hand just slide it up higher that in touch the top lube it higher let's kill now lift your chin up to me that's a girl now there is a little clip on the stress that which you can see but I'm just going to shoot it just take your hands up so I can't see them that's it let me shoot through this hole just take your fingers of your left hand up so I can't see them back to go chin up perfect girl I can go I can do sitting down one's buckshot anything but that's my space that I get to work in that's what I get to move in it's shooting nice and fast it's a good fashion of spain with four hundred is my fast shallow space I want to can I interject and show something so sue said this thing to stops over two stops under and I just want to show you what she actually means if I use the meter in the camera the little dow that's telling me how bright it's supposed to be and I get it into where the camera thinks it's supposed to be this is the shot that results see that it's can you see on the screen it's kind of dark it's not that look so I think that's what most people try and then it doesn't work and then they don't get it now when you overexpose the face which is what I'm eating too remember it's the camera the white picks up the white which tries to under exposed to allow for the amount of light coming in just like when you shoot black on black a black dress black here on a black background says I need more light need more lights her over exposes the face that that's when you look at the back of the camera and adjusted in the opposite there's a meta in your camera but just used the screen the way I always use the screen we ended up at sixteen hundred of a second one one thousand six god I'm going to go back down to four one four hundredth of a second which where su wass which is exactly two stops over on the camera's going to scream and say you're overexposed just ignore that and katie give me a shimmy please lovely not quite as good as soon as that but just look at the expression on the picture on dh it'll look the way that suit kind of intended that's what she means by goto stops over and when she's saying go to stops under you just do it the reverse way okay so let me take a nice shop so I've got a good shot to compere and then we'll set up your lighting sit out okay I'm gonna pull back just a little bit I want one more dancing laughing so the way you were moving was perfect let's do that again a little bit more smile push it in for a good girl okay we're going to do this with a big smile really won the girl going now this time kick out that show me more so I get more moving in the dress that's beautiful the guy that diploma and I want a gorgeous that's beautiful good girl and now this time look at me but keep shimmering so look up that certain perfect nice katie good girl thank you

Class Description

As a photographer, nothing defines your talent more than your ability to capture, create, and place the right lighting. Award-winning portrait photographer Sue Bryce joins studio lighting wunderkind Felix Kunze for a lighting for portrait photography masterclass covering the universally most-used portrait scenarios. You will learn how to work with both natural and studio light — so that you are prepared to walk into any environment and take a gorgeous photograph.

Sue, internationally-renowned for her ability to paint portrait subjects with the glow of natural light, will teach you how she sets up different lighting scenarios. Felix, who's worked with the top photographers on earth, will then take the reins replicating Sue's shot — all using artificial lighting techniques he has honed from experience. The two seasoned photographers will take turns shooting, each learning and asking questions of the other in real time.

By the end of this course, you will know how to shoot a variety of portrait styles, including the classic beauty shot, the silhouette, high-contrast glamour, the soft flat light portrait (master that back light!), and old-school Hollywood glamour — all with both natural light and artificial light.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Lighting Challenge Workshop Guide Part 1

Lighting Challenge Workshop Guide Part 2

Sue Bryce & Felix Kunze - Gear Guide

The Lighting Challenge Syllabus

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Aliah Husain

I loved this course! I purchased it as a beginner photographer, unsure of whether to shoot natural or studio light and how to get the best results. After watching the course, I am fully confident in my ability to use both natural and studio lighting in my photography. And most importantly, I feel I have the knowledge base to be able to experiment with lighting in any situation. I am both grateful and inspired by these two amazing teachers sharing their technical knowledge and a personal piece of themselves. It is clear that they genuinely care about making their students better photographers. Thank you, Sue and Felix!!!


This is the best lighting class I've done, including several in-person ones. Covers so much, and the contrast between and dialogue about the two styles (natural vs studio) was so helpful. I didn't think there was anything at all negative about how Sue spoke with Felix, which a few reviewers said. Clearly she has great respect for him, which she sincerely says at one point, and explains why. Wonderful to see specifically how they both shape light. So many topics are covered. Loved Felix's clear and specific explanations about studio lighting. This class is worth every penny.

Wasabi Ben Kenobi

This was a fantastic introduction to studio lighting, and one of the best courses I've watched on Creative Live. I've only ever done natural light photos, but I want to learn more about studio lights because I'm creating a basement studio. I'm already a big fan of Sue's approach to portraiture. Now I'm a fan of Felix's soft lighting approach, too. In this course, he demonstrates how to replicate natural light portraits with a simple lighting setup. With a big scrim, a strobe or constant lamp, and v-flats, you can do so much! I'll be watching this course again.