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Five Portraits Tips from My Recent Photoshoot (FE 35mm F1.4 GM Sony A7iii)

In this blog post, I am going to walk through my Sacramento portraits photoshoot with model Ava. It was nice late afternoon lighting and I shot some backlight photos during this photoshoot. I was using Sony A7iii FE 35mm F1.4 GM for this photoshoot since 35mm is more versatile and flexible. Below are the five tips I am going to share throughout this blog post.


Key Points

  • Using the hair to block the backlight

  • Matching colors with flowers

  • Strong hash light background

  • Backlight with darker background

  • Finding natural bounce light in the city

Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace

Using the hair to block the backlight


My first photo tip is for shooting against the sunlight. Sometimes sunlight at the late afternoon hours is still pretty strong and creating shadows on the face. That's why shooting with model's back against the sunlight will be a good method for even lighting on the face. I am going to use two examples below.

Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/1000s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/1000s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/1000s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/1000s | Model: @avafgrace

In these two photos above, you can see the left side of the model's hair having sunlight on it. This was because she was turning slightly a bit to her left, and the hair floating on the side blocks the sunlight and creating highlight on the hair. In this way, there won't be any spotty shadows on the face because the sunlight coming through the trees is spotty circular shape.


Matching colors with flowers


Next, I am going to talk about matching the colors with flowers. Ava has the light green outfits that I think it will be nice match with the roses in the background.

Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace

As you can see with the examples above, the dress has some orange/red pattern on light green. Therefore, some orange roses will be a nice color matching and the leaves of different green tones will create nice variety of green to complement the dress.


Strong hash light background


Next, I am going to talk about strong hash light on the background. Usually, we want to avoid strong light on the background building because the metering will be too dark on the portraits. What we want to do is to have some sunlight on the body of the model so that the metering system can meter correctly. I am going to show couple examples below.

Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace

As you can see the photos above, the background IMAX sign is under strong sunlight. I positioned the model with some sunlight on the right side of the body so that the lighting situation is similar to the background. The other thing to keep in mind is that the model has a white shirt, which is similar to the IMAX sign color. This creates similar tones from the model to the background.


Backlight with darker background


In the case of backlight with darker background, it is good for using this technique to create highlight around model's head. Because the strong light on the portrait border, it makes the portraits stood out nicely. Below are some examples:

Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/320s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/320s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/400s | Model: @avafgrace

Shown above, the head is located around the darker area of the tree behind. Usually, in order to find darker background, we need to find some building with some light coming through from the edge of the build. One trick to find a darker background is to look for the building shadows on the ground. And then position the model near the edge of the shadow. Look at the lower right of the images above, the dark shadow line is created by the building behind.


Finding natural bounce light in the city


Sometimes, doing photoshoot within downtown can see some unexpected reflected light. Especially in a sunlight late afternoon where the sunlight angle is pretty low and building windows act like a big reflector.

Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2000s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2000s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2500s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2000s | Model: @avafgrace
Sony FE35mm F1.4 GM A7iii, ISO 100, F1.4, 1/2000s | Model: @avafgrace

As you can see in the examples above, the reflected sunlight is evenly on the front side of the model. Below is an illustration on how the building reflected the light so that you can find some similar environment in the late afternoon within your city downtown.

If you want to see more samples from this shoot, please check out this video below:


In summary, you can use a lot of backlight and environment to your advantage for your photoshoot. What I would recommend is that before each shoot, you can scout the location lighting by driving/walking through, and observe how the light is reflecting from the buildings. In this case, you can quickly decide whether it's a suitable environment for your portraits photoshoot.


Sony A7iii: https://amzn.to/3fJLhqA

FE 35mm F1.4 GM: https://amzn.to/2VEW7XE


Thanks for reading :) More photos will be uploaded in my Instagram account: @caliallstaring.



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