How to Shoot Portraits in Poor Natural Light

Navigating low-light conditions remains one of the most challenging scenarios for photographers, requiring a deep understanding of camera settings and creative use of available resources. This helpful video provides valuable insights and practical advice that can significantly enhance the quality of photos taken in such tricky environments.

Coming to you from Anita Sadowska, this informative video sheds light on tackling low-light photography without the use of flash, relying solely on natural light. Sadowska emphasizes the importance of ISO adjustments and setting a warmer white balance to enrich the photo's warmth, making these conditions work to her advantage. These tips are not just technical; they encapsulate a philosophy of embracing light limitations as a canvas for creativity. This is notable, as Sadowska demonstrates real-time problem-solving and adaptation, skills pretty much every photographer needs.

Sadowska's approach to manipulating her environment and camera settings underlines the essence of photography: painting with light, no matter how scarce it might be. She illustrates the impact of positioning the model close to light sources to get as much of it as possible and the surprising effects of experimenting with backlit setups. Her candid walkthrough of post-processing, particularly using masks in Lightroom to balance highlights and shadows, offers a hands-on tutorial for refining images captured under less-than-ideal lighting conditions. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Sadowska.

If you would like to continue learning about how to light a portrait, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Why is it the the implicit answer to every question about portraiture around here seems to be "just have a sexy young woman take off her clothes".


Think I'll have another look at Richard Avedon's "In the American West" again. It was done entirely with natural light.

Because normal folks are drawn to beauty.

Those Avedon so called portraits are ugly. Jesus Christ. And, what's up with those poses. smh. Trees have more personality and are more dynamic.

And the Mona Lisa is a hag, Starry Night is a wierdo's acid trip, and Salgado's photos are too desaturated.
Cheesecake, baby, that's what sells. Just not to museums or art collectors, those insufferable snobs.

Focus, son. You are so rattled right now. Your frigid fragility is showing.

--- "Mona Lisa is a hag"

You're the only one saying that. I have no idea how you went from Avedon to Mona Lisa.

--- "Starry Night is a wierdo's acid trip”

That's not even a portrait. Lol lol lol. Breathe, boy. Breathe.

-- "Salgado's photos are too desaturated."

Some of his stuff is creepy and cool. It's different type of portrait. Mostly on the dark photojournalistic side. Psssst….it's ok to have a variety of portrait styles. Just so you know.

Listen up. Let's put on our thinking hat. Do you really think, in this day of age, clients are going to hire you to take photos in those styles? {Rhetorical question.} And, I've looked at your gallery. For someone who sheepishly champions the old "masters", funny how you don't follow their styles.

There have been several articles on here where portraits are on the conservative side. And, yet, a sexy one pops up once in a while and you lose your shit and get all triggered. Relax.

Totally unable to even comprehend the point, he sinks to personal attacks once again. So predictable.

--- "Totally unable to even comprehend the point"

Well, you could try reading again.

--- "personal attacks"

Really? Reminds me of those soccer players that fall to ground crying (acting) in pain even though they were barely touched.

If you are going to enter the arena disparaging articles and/or other photography styles, you might want to grow some skin.