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.
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.
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.
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.
And if you want your subject's clothing to pop be sure to have them wear a bright color.
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.
Do you have any cool tricks for getting nighttime portraits? If so don't be greedy. Share them with us in the comments below.