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Natural Light Photography

Lesson 6 of 7

Outdoor Light

Sue Bryce

Natural Light Photography

Sue Bryce

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Lesson Info

6. Outdoor Light
Not every outdoor portrait shoot can take place at golden hour. Learn how to look for great available light -- and how to create your own soft light outdoors using a scrim or sheer fabric. Work with ambient light outdoors or soften that light with easy accessories.

Lesson Info

Outdoor Light

Alright, outside light. Okay, so, more outside light. Recently I did this shoot outside. This is such a neat example because you know, we were under a tree and straight away I found dappled light and I don't like dappled light so see how dappled it was? But I just moved her around until the light was on her hair and not on her face. I shot it with no reflector and I absolutely love that image. So it was one of three images she chose for her folio box. The light's coming in her hair. We were just walking around the neighborhood looking for places to shoot. I found a house with a light blue powdered background. It looked beautiful. Okay, so just looking for light, always looking for light to the face. Exactly what we just did with Danielle. Image on the left is my two assistants, my makeup artist and my hairstylist are holding up a scrim. On the right image, she has the scrim over her head and on the bottom image she has no scrim. So see how in the bottom one, there's more light on her f...

ace, sorry more light on her hair and less light on her face. And in the top image, on the right hand side it's more even. So the scrim is definitely one of the best things that you could do. How would you hack the scrim outside if you didn't have the expensive scrim? I would suggest you could either create two broomsticks or two poles, dallying pipes and stretch out the fabric over the top. Or you know, hand make a light frame and do it yourself. But there's gotta be ways, think about ways that you can find a scrim. I bet you there's kites, there's ways that you can make a frame. If I had thought about it back then, I probably could've hacked something, gone this is my homemade scrim. Remember there's this point when you're in business where you can afford and budget for things where making something takes a lot more time than buying it and my time is precious. I always ask myself one question whenever I'm about to make anything. So often I'm making headpieces and beautiful dresses. That's fine, but I do ask myself one really important question whenever I'm making anything and the question is, could I have better spent my time marketing? Could I have better spent my time getting bums on seats? Because if my time is better spent marketing my business, then making a scrim all day instead of marketing might be a good way to hide and it might be a good way to say, "Look at my budget scrim." But if I wasted seven hours building something when I could've been out talking about my business and getting work, then it is not financially a better choice. Okay, so saving the $400, buying the scrim and then spending the seven hours marketing your business so you get bums on seats, would be more valuable to me and to you. So don't hide behind your hacks either. 'Cause sometimes what we create as hacks are really sidelines for going out and getting money into our business. Okay, and I watch that 'cause I call people out on that all the time. This was one of my favorite images this year 'cause I do not get to shoot outside. I photographed this girl in 2008 in Melbourne, Australia. She flew from Melbourne to LA, it's six years later. When I photographed her she was 16. She is now 22 and she was in LA doing an acting class and she told me at that she wanted to be an actress. She's followed me on Facebook all this time and wrote to me a year ago to say she was gonna be in LA and could she rebook another photoshoot. and it's so cool 'cause I'm still friends with her mom and her little brother on Facebook. So my clients return and I wanted to do something completely different so we walked around the streets in LA and just got natural light shots.

Class Description


  • Manipulate available light to create a flattering light source
  • Eliminate harsh shadows using simple accessories
  • Create multiple types of light from a single window
  • Capture beautiful outdoor portraits whether it's a sunny day or cloudy day
  • Work with direct light, directional light, and backlight
  • Professionally light portraits using free natural light and inexpensive modifiers
  • Create your own inexpensive lighting tools


Sometimes, the best light in photography is free. In this 90-minute class, learn how to manipulate ambient lighting into studio-like lighting conditions. From window light to working outdoors, learn to harness available light to create a variety of styles, from soft, flattering portraits to dramatic directional light. Go behind-the-scenes of a live natural light shoot with artist Sue Bryce to bounce light, bend light, soften light, and create drama with intense light.

While natural light is beautiful, it's also affordable. Work with inexpensive accessories like $35 V-flats and a $15 homemade scrim to turn a single window into several lighting patterns using different techniques. Discover how to use modifiers to turn bad light into the kind of light that flatters anyone. Then in the final lesson, learn how to replicate natural light with studio lighting gear for beautiful light at any time.


  • Beginning photographers eager to learn simple lighting
  • Intermediate photographers ready to expand lighting skills
  • Photographers struggling to manipulate natural light


Portrait artist Sue Bryce built a career on using natural light. Her lighting style helps create contemporary, fashion-inspired portraiture without expensive studio gear. Awarded the Portrait Photographer of the Year -- twice -- Sue is a master portrait photographer specializing in a style of portraiture that helps women recognize their own beauty.


AnnaGeo Jump

Such an amazing way to use natural light and get great results. Sue you have an artistic and practical way to see everything around you, and this course opens our minds to endless possibilities around us that can help us to achieve the most beautiful results with natural light and simple materials. Thank you as always!

Noel Guevara

Fantastic course! I got this for $29 and it's the most bang-for-the-buck purchase I've made here in creative live. Sue is undoubtedly an expert, and I love her no-fuss, direct method of teaching. Her lighting hacks are also great tips. At first I was apprehensive because of reviews of her course with Felix Kunze, where she was described as overpowering and defensive, but after seeing this I now understand her background, and learned that she actually has great respect for Felix. Buy it. You'll learn a lot about natural light in one go.

Kelly Cas

definitely good for a beginner who doesn't yet have the time or money to invest in expensive equipment. i love her sharp personality and she is clearly passionate about what she does, infusing the whole atmosphere with fun