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Portrait Hints


Hi everyone, I am about to embark on using my 503cx for portraits. I intend to use natural light as a light source. I haven't seen many forum articles on portraits or discussion about lighting and camera uses etc. Is anyone here experienced in portraits have any comments to make that may be helpful to me?
G'day Matt:

There are probably ten thousand books written on the subject of natural light portraiture, so you may get some great pointers at the local library.

The sun has been with us a long time (!) and the light is free, so it is a great way to start. But the direct sun is also harsh - it is a bare bulb in the face, and strong shadows where it is not. The clouds make a giant soft box, so 'high overcast' clouds will be your friend.

You will also find that the indirect light from a bright day coming in through a window or door will be your very best friend. Particularly when you learn to sit your subjects at the 'edge' of the fall-off inside the room. It can be the best of all light. Of course, you are also going to find a cartload of challenges with colour temperatures of natural and artificial light and how they affect colour film. Not so, happily, with black and white.

You will also soon find that just one little portable reflector - maybe cl&ed on a tripod - will be a great balance for you on the 'dark side'. (Think Darth Vader). Then, you'll wonder about flash fill. (And then, two assistants, an RV, generators, full studio light set up, the snoot, the barn-door, gobos, blah blah blah.)

Hint: natural light is good! Bare necessities free you up.

As I said at the top, there is plenty to read! You have a new camera and you will first need to be comfortable with it, of course. And then, I say, jump in. Grab a roll of BW, get a sitter near an open window or doorway, find the edge of the light, place the sitter at the best angle to 'work' the face (soft shadow on one side is your friend), take an incident light meter reading of the face, think, compose, and shoot! Make notes. Remember the conditions outside. By the way, you can also do this outside, under an porch roof, an overhang etc.

I quickly searched and found many books at Amaz*n, with "previews". Have a look. You'll get a few quick clues.

That's my two cents. There will be many more at this forum who qualify to give you fifty cents worth, or even a dollar's worth.

Look forward to seeing a few portraits up here !



Oops, now the second image appears after 3 or 4 minutes. Sorry, Herr Moderator. Please delete one. Gulp!

<font color="ff0000">edited edition


This time I will have to be very strict.
I suppose you are well aware that it is my intention to become the laziest moderator ever in the existence of this forum.
I know that is virtually impossible because the former moderator set such a great ex&le.

I regard this nonsense of posting twice a picture from a young and angry moderator as cheating in the purest sense of the word.

Under the circumstances I will give you a time out of 2'44".
Beware this is a serious offense.
If this happens again this year you are facing stronger measures.
Thanks Colin, I appreciate your words here and your photo. I'm off to find myself a good light meter.
Meter: Just about any Sekonic, Minolta IV or V, any Gossen.

Light: take a hint from the painters ... seek North light. North window light is indirect.

Additional stuff: On one those pop-up, dual sided reflectors is worth the money. A reflector lets you bounce light back into the shadow side for fill. Get the white and gold version ... the gold is nice for warm sunset shots, or when the light is from a tungsten source like a household l&. If money is an issue, any reflective white surface will do ... like a sheet of Foamcore.

Available Light: Shoot out doors in the AM or near sunset. It's referred to as "Golden Hour" by professional photographers. If forced to shoot in harsher light, seek shade ... not dappled shade ... and use a UV filter or warming filter for color shots in the shade or the shadows will go bluish.

I do a lot of portraits, but by far, the majority of available light ones are for wedding clients.


Like Marc says, Matt.

Try to get a meter with reflected and incident light capability. Most do. Even the old Weston Master has a 'cone'.

About North light. :) If you are Down Under, South light, for the same reasons.

(That image of the boy was "south light" with a foam core white sheet, held by a grip and on a tripod, about 2 feet high left.)

The double sided, pop-out, reflectors Marc mentioned are excellent, and don't break like foam core. ;-)))

This image below is outside, heavy bright cloud, XP2 excellent for skin, overexposed 1 stop, and a slow shutter, seeking 'dreamy'. All natural light.



Dear Colin,

Please read your post that was edited by me.
Your time out starts as soon as you log in to read.

Thanks Marc and Colin.

I have my eyes on a nice Sekonic L-308s for $350AUD.
I also saw a 2nd hand Sekonic L-608 for $649AUD.
Foto Riesel have a discount January on some products so I will make use of that.

@ Matt. They are both good.

@ Paul. My humblest apologies. May all your Emus lay soft boiled eggs, and may all your Kangaroos be born with iPods already fitted. (This is the 'ne plus ultra' of Aussie blessings for the New Year.)



PS I made sure this took me 2'45" to write.

Best wishes for you and your family for the coming new year.

Just found a nice and complete Linhof 6X17 camera.
I know you are interested in this 6X17.
For me the Horseman 612 that allows use of a 35 mm lens is on top of the list.


@ Andy. Thank you.

@ Paul. 6x17. 6x12 The Sirens keep calling. And now Marc has a lovely 903 set up available, too. When faced with such a quandry, I usually do something entirely different. I feel another Holga coming on ... ;-)