Making Available Light Portraits

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

Light, whether it occurs naturally or artificially, has three basic characteristics: quality, quantity, and color and it’s the quality of the light on a subject ultimately determines the effectiveness of a portrait.

To some photographers “available light.” means using “every light that’s available” while to others, like myself, it means using only or mostly the light that’s available within a scene. Sometimes I’ll use a reflector, speedlight or a camera’s pop-up flash. The below image was made using only the light from a narrow window at the model’s right.Here are a few of the things I like about making available light portraits:

Available Light Portraits

  • It’s free! There is no flash or other lighting equipment to purchase, set up, plug-in, or chew batteries. You can make photographs outdoors using natural light or indoors using window light and all you need is a camera and a subject. Of course, you can supplement the available light with inexpensive reflectors that you can buy or make one yourself using a piece of foam core board, although that style is a bit harder to fold for travel.
  • It’s easy. You can see the light falling on the model and you don’t have to guess about lighting ratios or worry about moving two or three lights around or dealing with accessories such as lightstands, hair lights, or booms. In this kind of setting you’ll find that the subject is more relaxed and instead of wasting time fussing with lighting equipment you’ll be less distracted too enabling you to make better portraits.
  • It’s fast. There are no lights to set up, tear down, or pack. You eliminate the expense of buying expensive shipping cases or the specter of damage during transit. You can also work faster with your subjects getting more and better photographs while allowing your subject to relax at the same time. Available Light Glamour Photography


Joe is the author of “Available Light Glamour Photography” that can be found in your friendly neighborhood camera store or Amazon.