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Natural Light Photography

Lesson 5 of 7

Sunbooth with V-flats and Scrim

Sue Bryce

Natural Light Photography

Sue Bryce

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Lesson Info

5. Sunbooth with V-flats and Scrim
Those same V-flats and scrims can easily construct a "sunbooth" that will create flattering light anywhere outdoors. In this lesson, Sue explains how to quickly create a spot for beautiful studio-like outdoor light anywhere. The trick works for any time of day (provided it's actually day and not night).

Lesson Info

Sunbooth with V-flats and Scrim

This is something that I developed, because I needed to shoot outside. I was doing a periscope and it was a very hot day, and we call it the sunbooth. We affectionately, me and the photographers, my students affectionately call it the sunbooth, and I'm gonna show you how I built it. So I take this, and I'm gonna make a shell. So, I'm gonna turn this all the way around. See my whole life is about V-flats. You wanna grab that? Okay, and you can walk that way John and around. Okay, keep going. That's it. Stop. Now I'm gonna do it exactly the same. So again, my whole world is just two V-flats. Love them. Yup, and same thing again, all the way around John. And in, in. Yup, in. Keep going. That's it, all the way in, and look at that. Now I have what I call the black tunnel. One of the most beautiful places to shoot. Check this out, Danielle. Now, remember, at the moment, if Danielle's in there, the light is coming through here and going around the corner, not ideal. So let's open up the shel...

l, okay, and then let's close it down. So what I'm essentially doing is I'm rotating her into the light, because I want her to have the most beautiful light. Now she's gonna have a lotta contrast around her face, and these are very difficult shoes to photograph in. (laughs) Oh. Yeah, sorry. Okay, I'm gonna take a reading. Take a step towards me Danielle. That's it, good girl. Now, John, come in. Check this out. Let me take a no reflector, 'cause remember got a lotta negative fills, so they wanna see, oh, okay, we're a bit under. Hang on. Okay, now we're one stop under. So, I'm at 640 ISO. I'm at a shutter speed of 200 at 2.8. There's my shot. Oh, still sexy though, isn't it? Okay, so John, let's put a little bit a smoocha into there. That's it. I'll show you without. There it is. Gorgeous. I could shoot everything in the black tunnel. I did a series of Justine Angara, who's sitting there in the back, and called them Vogue portraits, 'cause I want you to go to Google and Google Vogue portraits, okay? It's for a portrait photographer. It's one of those moments when you put in Vogue portraits and then you go like this, (gasps) "Oh, this is so beautiful," because it's not fashion, it's actual portraits, but even though a lot of them are celebrities and models, Vogue portraits is one of the best things to Google for inspiration, but everything's in that black tunnel. Nice, gutsy lights, skin tones, real grungy, but very, very beautiful, and it just makes me absolutely happy. Alright, now, I shoot with this in my studio all the time, and it's the black shell. I love it. Now, I needed to go and do a shoot up on the rooftop balcony in LA. I get up there, and it is just 100 degrees. That's 35 Celsius, for my home friends. I've crossed over. Yes, I am imperial. But when in Rome, you do as the Romans do, even though the Romans were probably metric. (background laughter) They would've changed. They were very progressive. America won't change. Alright, so what I did was I walked out, if you go back to the kee-na ill-ee, sorry, you can see what I did. I walked up and I threw, on the screen, top of the screen, the fabric up and over, and I created a sunbooth on the rooftop of my house, and that's how I did it. Just with this, up and over the top, and, okay I got lots of hilarious questions on Facebook, like what happens if it's a windy day? You're gonna have to secure them somehow. It's gonna have to be a sand bag, tent pegs, stand, assistants holding them. Just do what you gotta do, okay? Work it out. Alright, now because we're outside we didn't need a scrim. This was what I did. I actually took the scrim, but the one I showed you on the screen is if you don't have a scrim, and I put the scrim on top of the V-flats. So, it becomes a lid. I'm not gonna do it now, 'cause I'm short, and I'd need to get up a ladder, but I literally stood on a chair, and I put the scrim on top. So, whether you use the fabric or whether you use a big scrim, it now created a hotbox of light that was coming down, but of course LA has a beautiful big spread of light. It's not that harsh sun, and no, I did not shoot it at 12:00 when the sun was directly up, 'cause it wouldn't make sense, but the good thing about the scrim is wherever you place it it picks up the light source and redirects it. So, when you can afford one, yes, put it on your list, but remember Sue's golden rule. If it doesn't make the ship go faster don't buy it, because right now that makes my ship go just as fast. It might not be as easy. It might not be as simple, but it works, and it will save you $400. So if you do not have an option or something else is more important, like a prime lens or rent or food, 'cause I remember what it was like building my studio, and I am the biggest hack you will ever meet when it came to picking up furniture from the side of the road and painting it white, which is wonderful. Well, thank Martha Stewart for making shabby chic, the coolest thing that ever happened, because you could just make everything white shabby chic, and that's what I did. Everything came from the side of the road, okay, and I just made do, and I took beautiful shots, and people do not care. They don't care, they don't know the difference between Chiffon fabric and a laser light scrim. Only photographers do. Any human being is gonna watch you throwing this stuff around and go, "Wow, what you do is amazing," and you're like, "Thanks." You don't have to tell them you're a hack. Just do it. Alright, we've got a Silhouette. We've got our sunbooth. Now, how would I use the sunbooth outside? Remember we don't always have studios. I've got photographers studying under me that haven't signed studios yet that are folio building and learning. You can folio build for six months. You can folio build for six years, but if you can afford to buy V-flats and start creating beautiful fashion-style portraiture outside, in a park, in your backyard, wherever, on your balcony, on your rooftop. If you can do that and start producing beautiful images you're building a folio towards creating brand and a business that is going to change your world, and I tell you right now I could do this anywhere. I would do this in a park. In fact, I would go the extreme opposite of most people and instead of being embarrassed about being in a park I would make an exhibition of it, because I know people would line up to see what I was doing. I would show them the back of my camera, and I would be standing there prepared with business cards, because I know that people are going to be like, "What's going on? Look at this photo shoot," and that to me is what I've always wanted to do in my business, drum up the excitement of a photo shoot. Now, from here we took Danielle on the challenge on the bus. We took Danielle outside and Kenna, no Sally and Jaron, held the scrim over the top of her head like this. Now Jaron jokingly said, Jaron's from Resource Magazine, he once as a junior went to a shoot where he held the scrim up for five hours, and I was like people are cruel, 'cause you know you can buy a light stand, and just connect it to a light stand, but then I thought, well you do what you gotta do. If you're in a shoot and you need a scrim, and your assistant's there, they're gonna hold it. I look at it like this, it's a chance for a workout, okay? So you swap people out. Make sure that they get a rest, but really what we do if you look at the screen here. She's outside in hot, harsh daylight and all I did was put the scrim over the top of her head, and that's how it significantly changes. Now, again, if you're in a sunbooth outside that's what it woulda look like, but with a black background. So I would literally be creating exactly what I've just shot here, just for you, in an outside arena, and it just woulda been perfect. It woulda been beautiful work. I mean, the obvious difference is she's a camera hop here at Creative Live, so she doesn't have her hair and makeup done. We just were like, "Oh, we need a model. "Can somebody take Danielle's camera?" 'Cause, you know, the boys are cute, but she's way cuter, okay? So can I show you, just so that nobody's like, "Well you didn't show us." If we open this up, John, just so that you can pull it back. Let's imagine that John and I are the assistants, and we're outside in harsh light. Danielle step forward. Basically, I just got a scrim like this. I gave it to Jaron and Sally, who were my assistants. Hold that John. Yup, we held it like this, lifted it up. Is it gonna fall? Okay, sorry. Yeah, just kick it in. It'll be fine. We have it up like this. We went like this, and I photographed Danielle directly underneath it. Go back John, towards you. I can't move. Yeah, that's it. We went like that. Arms up, and just hold your core. (both laughing) And pulse. It's like Pilates. Okay, just like that, and that's how I did it. I mean, it's perfect. So, I've seen big fashion shoots on Sports Illustrated filmed on beaches where they have light stands with the scrim, you know, blocking the girls that are in the sand on a hot beach, hot light beach, and that's how I did it. So I was like, "Well, I'll just hold the scrim over her head. "I'll take the photograph." That's what I did. That's the result, and I think it's absolutely beautiful, don't you agree? So, so much easier when I go backwards, if you see that hard light and then you see the scrim light, and I didn't change the, so the exposure came down just because she was more muted, which brought the backdrop highlights down, although the highlights are still very hot in the image, because there's still a lot of light hitting the background. We could've found shadow background, and it would've been darker and sexier or we coulda just put a V-flap up and put a Sunbooth above it.

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.

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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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