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The Portrait Lighting Challenge: Natural vs Studio

Lesson 3 of 29

Shoot: Natural Light Portraits - Katie

Sue Bryce, Felix Kunze

The Portrait Lighting Challenge: Natural vs Studio

Sue Bryce, Felix Kunze

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Lesson Info

3. Shoot: Natural Light Portraits - Katie

Lesson Info

Shoot: Natural Light Portraits - Katie

so do you want to take a shot reference shot of that did I change it enough no I think when when we set it up you could just put the v flats in this all right so now what I want to do is take it one feather do it katie I'm going to swap mason with katie because she's in a dark outfit and I'm going to show you why so if you go that way macy can you bring this around in terms of being a studio photographer I worked in a studio in the early nineties with polly boards meaning polystyrene boards in love polly boards they were the best invention ever in the movie industry of course they called bead walling polly styrene no but one of the people you'll beat wall read war and so one of the most interesting things about the flats is I never shot on avi flat until I came to creative life although a voice she's got a fine for foam core it's called a gate of home in new zealand as a reflector a short one so my little reflector was always foam core but my big reflectors were palestine because they ...

have the best little beads of reflected light like millions of little spheres of of you know light which I think is absolutely beautiful but one thing that really struck me when I came to create if life was I was trying to show you how to shoot on the cheap you know natural light no expensive backgrounds and they opened up the black v flat and I started to shoot natural light on it and there's something about the black foam core when it's photograph that just makes you cry with joy makes me cry with joy so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to get katie coming this way katie and katie's gonna come and stand in here and as you can see this is my lighting set up I've got a black b flat side onto the window I've got the same sort of rick tangle coming in now I'll take whatever light I can get if it's a low window I'll take it if it's high window I'll take it I'll just have to bounce differently okay but I need katie's face to look flat and light and it is perfect right now so I'll show you this and then I'll take that beef led away and show you what it really looks like so just ten foot a little bit katie in a little baby smile ok I'm just going to change my exposure um and I'm at now six forty two point I'm going to shoot to stop under because you have to she's on a black background okay now she's got a even light source going right around her face right now oh my god it doesn't get better than that now take this away felix take it back ok now dark room on this side katie staining in the same spot little wee baby smile katie good girl now that's how much light that that leaflet is giving may oh my god all right now it's ok to bring in contrast but not like that on the face and specially not with glamour or beauty images because you end up retouching shadows now I do not remove bags and wrinkles I removed the shadows underneath them right that's what it's exacerbated by light so the whole point is that I have two options here one is if I don't have a reflector come this side felix say out of your life to end this way towards me katie and just kick this hand back so let's go now bring you a chin into the light like this and look down okay I can bring her face if I had to shoot in this I'm going to turn her towards the light because I want her face to be in that light like I want the shadow on her face to fall in the right spot but anybody older than katie and that's not going to fly so without a big reflector we bring in a small reflector ok go straight to me katie and just kick it about that's it and the sound goes back a little like around a girl in long chin towards me so wait whenever I have an assistant too by the way this is something that I always do you know when somebody's holding a reflector and you go like this and I always go drop it like john doe I'm like chop it and then I go like this and I find it here it is it's right there and then they hold it you gotta work the light right so without the big reflector which is putting lots of light into the image I'll take the shot again okay chin back this way katie back to may note back to me sorry and a little baby smile there good girl our exposure is still perfect and we are now sitting at I'm still two point eight see that baby reflector it's just bounced in so if you look at the shot before can we do that nico sorry the one before that yeah see that shadow I would like to actually show a shoot a reference for this excusing my magic okay so one day in a seminar I was talking about rembrandt lighting but I said picasso lighting because I was nervous and I hadn't spoken to a large crowd of people and this guy came up to me afterwards any goes you said picasso lighting and I think you mean rembrandt and I had one of those moments for us like I could have gone well do you like that oh sorry about that and I kind of look to him and I'm like dude it is picasso what's all that on then I thought afterwards I should have just come clean so I'm coming clean but you know we're taught to light the face and put the shadow there and put the shadow there and put the shadow there well you look at a beauty magazine and you will find just about everybody like a beauty dish soft flat light and all I know is in terms of retouching and selling images to a woman that flies one hundred percent better a case as I bring in the contrast I'm going to show you we're it's applicable but right now it's not right now I just want this beauty life now I'm gonna bring back all you want to take a break you have a beautiful so I have a quick question yes so there's some basic questions coming in about window light and enroll ah little westside wanted to know how important it is how important is that where the windows are placed and cooper photography wanted to know this window particularly which direction it's facing and people are just kind of asking you know doesn't matter okay it's like it's like the ottoman christian help because your ottoman do you know how many people emailed me that how because it's big enough for a woman to lie on I don't know ottomans don't come in a standard size I buy one in every city I go to you know what direction were you standing in I don't know I can't wait a minute I have this unnerving since the direction I'm going to say we are northeast north south like east itself north self okay so we northeast it's a wonder from the east but it's seattle whatever is shining through the window and I don't know when what I do do is I measure the light in the studio when I get a studio a measure when it's at its best that's my shooting time okay so if felix is gonna eliminate that because he'd be like well now you can shoot any time any whether any day but the truth is I have to take what I get so I never look at direction off like I don't and people ask me questions like is the light different in new zealand north facing as it is and I'm like I don't no I shoot all around the world it shines through the window I grab a white board and I reflect it back side sun everywhere way so I can't let a reference of this waiting then katie just join me over here and we'll do a blank one and you can see on their just what that reflect is doing is just pushing some of that light back on nice and soft nice and soft ok so we take that out we put katie back in now I want to put the white leaflet back there because I want to show you something now I'm going to use the black beauty soft light and I'm gonna hit the backdrop is well so I'm going to open the white v flip and make a white shell so I called them shells because it's like shell um I create like a half shell and this time all the way around all the way around that's it stop now what I'm doing is I'm not only reflecting light back to katie I'm reflecting light to the b flat and this is really beautiful so I think creating images up with this lot soft light on the back that I think is so gorgeous so katie turn this way and just actually hold your elbows let's go and just drop back into shoulders and long chin towards me can you just scooch this way a little bit so you're in the middle that's ago and now just open your shoulders up to me just a little bit more okay so here I've got light hitting her face I've got light coming in from here I've got you know a good meter and one point two wide of light I've got this black poly board I want a long chin towards make a girl and what I'm going to dio I should really is I'm just gonna meet it to her I same sitting what's happening is my shadow speed is slowing down okay so two point eight six forty I'm staying here in a little baby smile katie good girl and I'm slowly going to pick up that background when I pick up the background I can increase the light when I eat it okay so I can put that light into there and see how it's picking up and it's almost like a navy blue and it is so pretty from now I want you to open your shoulders up to me that's a go no step hold your hands here to open your shoulders up and just push your chin towards may good girl stay there okay so now I'm just going to bump it up one more that too not on your exposure yep I'm still under I'm still under on my internal mater and I just want to pick up that background color because to me it's what so beautiful that one hundredth of a second to one eightieth of a second okay all right so I've got this beautiful soft light and now I know howto work that now let's put more contrast into this image so all they have to do is put a black shell and bring the half reflected back sick of me I don't want a full black I just want that okay so that's enough to draw light away look at katie's face now look how much light hitting her face it's doubt let's take a shot and now I want the half reflector and it's right there the case and now I'm putting mork contrast in so I'm going to shoot this nice and low and then she's gonna have more more dark on her face but not enough for it to be like the first image now that's how much shadow should be on her face okay for a beauty image for glamour image for portrait image for any image of women that's what should be there and that's just enough to give her a beautiful shape to her face and it was just looks perfect right now what I do is I pretty much grab a third v flynn ok so all I'm doing is just eliminating in eliminating in eliminating light right here my third beef lettuce right here and now I've just made that window smaller in this afternoon I'm going to make it maybe twelve inches wide and shoot a slit off light okay justus leather and now if I look at katie now and I take a photo of katie no don't let downtown with no reflector that sorry I didn't blink that's where she is right there so if you have a look there it isthe so I bring the reflected back not a lot is changing but for my final image it's going to be quite significant because now there's no light on the backdrop and it's going to be really really obvious what I've done and there's no light on the backdrop just because you've cut out some of it yes no because I didn't put the reflector on the backdrop right because you have that as a white shell so I had a white shell which was reflecting like the reason I have the v open on the side is to reflect like beckett the backdrop all right so now what I'm gonna do is I'm going to just get her face more into the light here it is hold your elbows again that's it and just hand underneath the swap over it's a girl on your stomach would be good just on your head better long chin towards me katie that's the one and I'm still shooting one stop under I've got a nice contrast image black background beautiful now I feel like there's still a lot of light on here and that there is actually brighter than my camera so it does look like there's a lot of light so I'm going to just cut it down a little bit more lean back a little bit katie okay and I just dropped my exposure to two stops under to just hold back the light that I'm capturing on her face you did that by just changing instead of speed yeah so the weird thing is it is everybody always says about my work it looks really painted lee and the idea is I dont painted lee do anything tto other than alien skin they want to capture is to point a because I loved that drop awakes I think it does look really magical and I feel like it's if you keep that if stop and just going slower and slower with a higher so there's more grain it looks more filmic and that's just the style that I learned and that's my thing so I will ask you actually we have a question from a g he was wondering if there's a reason why you're not why you're shooting it one two fifty it at six forty so instead of one twenty fifth and three hundred s o doesn't that bring noise and grain into it that's what I want I want my digital look like film I think my digital looks like film I shot for twelve years on a hassle bled medium format camera with film everything I created through that period of my career is my favorite work I do in that camera still and it's you know it's a hassle to shoot film and I'm very pro digital I believe in the evolution off or photography I like hyo so I like grain I like noise in my image and I like my digital look more like film sharpness is not my priority it never has bean I'm not interested in it and what I'm interested in is gutsy filmic looking portrait ce and so I definitely push up in the chute on six forty two point eight and then I adjust if I'm in very bright light and I can't shoot wide open I have a little bit of a secret I shoot on a nine stop density filter I take the density down in order to stay wide open it bumps on my highlights down gives me that flat look which gives me this beautiful form of flight which I love I'm very really in that situation where I want to shoot it two point eight and I can't because there's too much light but it does happen we're gonna do that often yeah and also felix when he set up the lights he put my neutral density filter on because he couldn't get below five point six because the lights were so bright that's going to be one of the challenge is getting down to two point eight but we want to keep that that soft background that you get you know from your shot out of the field so that's something that natural light photographers can't do is get their lights horse down when you're shooting with a little bit uh lower amount of light unusual would you shoot any differently if the model had darker hair then he doesn't I don't actually because the reflector picks up enough in the dark here I do team to not cap down the lights so much if they have black here because it does but then I love shooting dark skin on dark backgrounds because it's so beautiful but you know I don't really make a lot of allowances for doc here at all right so now what I want today with a reference for this yeah we changed it let me just grab the mind can we just keep it close yeah it's uh it's right there just thank you it's been more elegant than holding it on and I don't block the light either understand can we just keep it like check that ready to go instead of having to wind it up everything if you just stand up and then katie join me over here thank you these are just for me to cheat basically okay good alright thankyou so now now what I'm gonna do is I'm going to I really want their bass door okay so I need that bastar so caitlin you might need to come in and just hold the scream and I need an apple box because I just want to show you how to open up some light trying to get on it yeah so there's two more looks that I want to achieve right now one of them is more of a like fashion background style look that I try to give all of my clients because I want them to experience what it's like to look like they're in a magazine so try and make it look as fashion as I can and I learned that the lighting in fashion lighting is pretty variable it's you know everybody's got a different style but what I learned was it was really about the posing and how their post and where I shot so fashion models they're tall and lean and they're often shot quite low we need to shoot down on fashion models that's a normal human being gets shot down on a fashion model get shot up too and because they've got lean bodies and they look fabulous and you can shoot on any angle so when I would try and do then is just create more of a flat beauty dish light and imposed them more fashion so I'm not going to change the light source here all I'm going to do is open this up a little bit maybe lean in just a little bit more light she's got a really good black shell it would be easier if you came forward katie that's it and as you can see now let's just take a foot of katie's face in the light okay I haven't put a reflector and they're so she's just right on the edge of that light so she she is sitting from this side if you can see on this camera she's sitting almost out of the shell and then what I'm going to do is tune here this way and I'm going to get a put here right foot up on there that's it not a lift okay you just kind of to let you live foot hang right up onto your toe katie and then I want you to lean forward with this elbow lets a girl and then put this one here all right so I'm going to try and create more of a fashion style pose just so I can show you this light then what I'm going to dio is like most people katie is not a professional model she's sitting really good posture so I'm going to get you to push back here so you've got more model posture and like that's it more okay now in this shot I've got it exactly how I had a standing I just brought it forward a little bit more I've opened up my light source stone can come in and give me a reflected light beautiful katie looks amazing and I just want to dio this shot like this okay and maybe give may this hand's too obvious familiar it's put it down but to go and work your shoulder that to push your chin towards me katie okay I'm going to go with and slight tip this way all right now what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna take change that toe white just pop in a little bit of a backdrop pull over push right back john yeah that's it that's enough nice big open shell I've got a white light which means the background is now picking up light okay so first thing that's gonna happen is I'm going teo I need you john just on her face is I'm gonna shake that there and it's changed it it'll change it quite see that blue coming in the background when I put my raw images when I process my raw images I'm going to bring that light forward so I've gone from a black dark yes always and also what I want to do is see the triangles that I've created under her arm in the post so if you go back to the main camera off katie um at the moment that on the screen looks like she's just white skin floating on a black background but these triangles in her body and we've created triangles here push back through there katie we've created gaps here with created gaps that make putting look really good so I want to try and create that so that flat light for me it's pretty much everything if I can work in this area and what I love about being in a natural like studio is if you're being photographed with friends they're often they're getting their hair makeup done she's very secure in her shell I found when I started to put polystyrene board and deflect around my models or clients they instantly feel safe you enclose them into the walls there are a few hassles with the v flats one of them is sometimes moving them on your own you look like an idiot because you swing one their way swings that way you juggle with it hits you in the head they do fall so sometimes you know somebody what and I've had deflects fall towards a client and they scream aye but they don't just put their hand out you know it's like it's gonna be me it's gonna hit me it's just such a interesting way to work but my ultimate studio would have one window one reflector one black leaflet that goes toe white a bastard or in an apple box that's one of the big secrets on big fashion sets as well we always block it block it off so because you have this huge studio and no one wants to sit with the entire crew watching them so you just kind of we always creating these boxes that we put the subject that's interesting because you know what I feel like even I've been shooting for twenty five years and I shoot in front of you guys and these people watching and it's kind of weird but when I'm shooting a proper shoot I don't want people watching me like you know when you're in that zone and you just like trying to make it work you're trying to connect with your client you take the photo it's not working you wondering what you're doing wrong you're trying to remember your default poses and then if you still have to think about everyone else watching that just yeah you just want to say for a moment yeah and all I want is for everyone to look away just look away right now and it's so subtle I went to a wedding a friend's wedding and I photographed it and I watched the here stylist spend an hour and a half on the bride here and it was starting to get to that uncomfortable point where you're holding up everybody the ceremony the photographer and I looked at the headrest and she was doing a remarkable job but she was taking too long and I looked at it and I just saw this internal panic and she wasn't showing anything but I know that feeling so well off being shooting with people watching and it's not working and oh my god and I could see it and I just did to all of the bridesmaids and the mother can I speak to everybody in the bedroom we're going to take some bridesmaid shots and they pulled them out and I was like well just hid in the bedroom for twenty minutes and leader finish because the pressure that was on here was unbelievable I feel like that that's how you and I could have identified in here because I know what it feels like I've seen people do it when they're shooting put a shell around you put one around you they're so people can't see you they don't have to watch you and I am not afraid of if you want to watch I'll say can you sit down for a bit I'll call you when I'm really I'm just doing some tests because I'm really just finding my group sometimes I'm shooting on the subject suddenly gets uncomfortable like what happened and I look around and there's a hundred people watching you are everyone clear the set off you go thank you and then we can work back with a relaxed subject

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.


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.