Sometime ago I was in one really interesting “course” with Niki Strbian, she is a really talented photographer that lives in Helsinki and she kindly decide to give us a little informal course in portrait photography. She has this really nice soft and full of light style (check her site if you haven’t).
She gave us some tips on how photographing people and how to get lovely pictures as she does. I can share some of the tips she gave here with you guys and also this will help as a reminder of some of the most important concepts.
Catch light in the eyes, she mentioned this a lot of times and I was going around my portraits and looking at them, and then I realized why some where good and some where not that good, and all it happens in the eyes. If the catch light is there, then the picture is much better, same picture without catch light and is boring, the subject seems like dead. So trying to find the light in your subjects eyes is really important. She called the catch light “Bambi eyes”, because all the bambies in the movie had a catch light, without the catch light the bambi was a dead bambi I like that concept.
Natural light, she only works with natural light, no flashes or external lights. So sun its important, but not directly over your subject. So she show us some tips on how to position your subject depending on the time of day. So when the light comes from up (noon or cloudy days) its good to have your subject cover with some shadow from the top, so the light reflects in the floor and illuminates the face, but not the direct sun light in the face. That makes strong shadows and its not nice. But when the sun is low you can place your subject with the sun in the back at 45 degrees and some object blocking the sun a little bit so its not that harsh and then getting something to reflect that light in the subject face so the face looks light up.
Natural reflectors, in general she told us that she don’t use a lot of reflectors, is hard to move them around with kids running, so she found some natural ones that can be used as light reflectors to illuminate the face of the subject. For example, its good that the photographer wears white clothes, then you are a walking light reflector (i really loved this tip). Another natural reflector is water and asphalt, also walls and signs. So try to use the environment as a reflector, grass is not good.