Five Tips for Shooting Night Portraits With Available Light

For most photographers, magic hour is just as the sun is setting, but for Photographer Jordan Matter, it occurs after dark. In this video Matter gives us five tips for shooting nighttime portraits using only street and window light. Using this simple technique he is able to achieve three differently lit portraits in just a couple minutes.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Jordan Matter

Street lights may be a great source of light, but when your subject looks straight at you the light from above casts harsh shadows over the face and illuminates just the nose. So have your subject look up towards the light, just enough to throw a shadow on their cheekbones, to achieve a striking image.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Jordan Matter

A street light can work but not if you want your subject to look right at the camera. For that, Matter finds a large, illuminated display window to act as a giant softbox. For his first look he takes an even-lit portrait by putting his back right up against the window and having his model, Juliet Garrett, face him straight on.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Jordan Matter

But be sure you have the right tools for the job. In this case you're going to need a fast lens. Matter recommends shooting with an f/2, f/1.8, or an f/1.4 aperture for enough light and beautiful bokeh.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Jordan Matter

And if you want your subject's clothing to pop be sure to have them wear a bright color.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Jordan Matter

For Matter's second look he has Juliet continue to look at the window while he walks to her side for a well-lit profile grab before knocking out his third look by having her turn to face him for a Rembrandt style shot. And there you have it. Three different portraits, one window, in mere minutes.

Copyright 2017 | Image by Jordan Matter

Do you have any cool tricks for getting nighttime portraits? If so don't be greedy. Share them with us in the comments below.

[via Shutterbug]

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3 Comments

Andy Immens's picture

Great general tips - What I would like to add is that I often use my flash from my iphone to lit the face and get a catch light. Yes its a horrible colortempture but I always have small colorgels with me. It's easy and just enough to get some extra light without the hastle of setting up your speedlights.

Phil Newton's picture

Good quick tips there! I guess some cities are like daytime anyway the amount of light they put out. My 7D gets a bit grainy at those sorts of higher ISOs so probably not for me just yet.

Good tips, personally I love shooting in the nights. It works surprisingly well. :) I have noticed that it's more difficult for the model to pose. Also having to be a bit more aware of the light around.