194 of the best photography tips from professional photographers

21. Fake the sun

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

In the UK the sun doesn’t always shine, so adding a bare head flash behind your subject pointing towards the camera can create the effect of sunlight. 

Read more: How to improve your landscape compositions

Adding a CTO (colour temperature orange) gel will help warm up the image and create the warm temperature of sunrise or set. 

22. Create flat lays with punch

If you aren’t blessed with natural light in your location, add some extra punch by bouncing a speedlight or studio light off a white wall or ceiling. This is a great way of quickly and easily mimicking natural light, but watch for colour casts. 

23. Open doors and windows

Even inside, natural light can be enough to create a well-exposed image. Place your subject near to and facing natural light if possible, and make sure you open all doors and windows to allow as much light in as possible! 

24. Switch to prime lenses

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

These are great for portraiture, and are often used because of their superior quality in sharpness, large maximum aperture and focusing abilities. Try using a 50mm, 58mm, 85mm or even 105mm prime to create beautiful portraits. 

25. Get two lights from one

If you only have one flash available, you can use natural light as a rim light whether inside or outside on location. Turn your subject so the natural light creates a rim or hair light and set your exposure for that. Then add your flash to infill the subject from the front. 

26. TTL makes quick work

If you are adding flash in changing light conditions, consider using through-the-lens metering. This uses your camera to approximate the power of the flash on a frame-by-frame basis, so as the conditions change, the output will vary automatically. 

27. Reflect the light

You don’t always need studio flash or multi-light setups for the best portraits, as a reflector can add the punch of light you need. Start simple, assess the light and then try a reflector before you go and add flash – overcast days are perfect for this! 

28. Take time to location hunt

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

If you’re including the environment in your shot, location is key. Scout or find locations that help tell your story, and make sure it has the colours, ambient light and feel that you want from your shot. 

29. Consider what you don’t see

Shadows are just as important as the light; what you see or rather don’t see in an image helps to tell the story. Don’t be afraid to leave parts of your subject in shadow. Partially place your subject in a strip of hard sunlight and expose for that portion of the image. 

30. Use flash outdoors

Use flash to balance images where there is hard midday sun. Place your subject in the shadow or create shadow with a scrim. 

Read more: How to use off-camera flash

Expose the shot for the ambient light in the background, then add the flash to light your subject and even out the exposure across the image.

31. Create separation

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

Having a simple one-light setup in low light can leave images feeling flat and without separation. To overcome this, pick somewhere that has some ambient or existing light in the background and shoot on slower shutter speeds or higher ISOs to help bring this out. 

32. Use creative lens flare 

When the sun hits your lens and causes flare you can use it to be creative. 

Read more: How to create atmosphere with lens flare

Frame the shot so the sun isn’t overpowering then bring down the shadows in post-production to help the image pop. 

33. Correct temperature in Lightroom

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

If auto white balance didn’t produce the correct temperature, you can change to the exact Kelvins you want in Lightroom’s Develop module. 

34. Avoid harsh sunlight

If you can’t find shade, or have patches of sunlight, use the diffusion of a reflector to control the hard light falling on your subject and even the exposure. 

35. Create beautiful catchlights  

Use a beauty dish or reflector to create round catchlights in the eyes, which can really lift a portrait. Alternately you can use three strip lights in a triangular formation to frame the pupil. 

36. Eliminate background distractions

Image: Holly Wren

Image: Holly Wren

If you don’t like the look of your location, open your aperture and create distance between the subject and background to blur it and hide unwanted distractions. That way, you can look at backgrounds as colours and shapes rather than objects, or use white walls like a studio backdrop. 

37. Control light direction

Adding grids to flash off-camera helps to close down the light and make it more directional – you can add grids to softboxes, beauty dishes or bare heads to stop light spill and control the direction of the light. 

38. Use soft light

The softer the light, the more natural it will feel. To create this, keep the source of light close to the subject and as large and diffused as possible.

Read more: Why do we have better light for photography at the start and end of the day?

Large softboxes or umbrellas are ideal for this, but you can also create soft light by bouncing light from a ceiling or reflector. 

39. Consider flash direction

If you want to make the flash you use look natural, add it from the same direction as the natural light. This way you are shaping, controlling and adding to the light that naturally exists, thus concealing the fact that the natural light has been bolstered by
artificial light. 

All words: Holly Wren