The Beauty & Simplicity of Natural Light Portraits in Open Shade (VIDEO)

In a never-ending search for the "perfect light," many photographers ignore the beauty and simplicity of shooting in open shade. Not only does this method provide soft, even illumination, but this straightforward technique avoids the encumbrance of costly and ungainly lighting gear and accessories.

Instructor Mark Wallace summarizes today's tutorial like this: "Discover the secret to transforming your portrait photography without breaking the bank and say goodbye to expensive equipment—all you need is the magic of open shade." So pay close attention as he unlocks the power of this "effortless" style of portraiture.

Wallace is an experienced photographer who left the comfort of his home in the U.S. to travel the globe on a motorcycle loaded with a minimum of photo gear. Hence his preference for simplicity and available light. In this episode he demonstrates the shady technique in three locations—each resulting in captivating portraits with a unique look.

Open shade describes a situation with relatively bright illumination that delivers soft light without all the problems of bright sun or shadows falling on a subject. Wallace prefers shooting from a balcony, with the sun on the opposite side of the building, for several reasons. One benefit is that directional light from outside the balcony often bounces off the wall to brighten up the scene.

Another big advantage of this simple approach is that it imbues a scene with specular highlights that create perfect catchlights in a subject's eyes. Of course, open shade can be found in a variety of other settings, and Wallace explains a variety of techniques for using this beautiful light to advantage.

Wallace provides an overview of his session, and then digs into a variety of game-changing techniques, like positioning the model against a light-gathering white wall. You'll also see how to use open shade with a window to create portrait photos that are flattering to your subject.

Other effective methods include shooting into the light from a position of open shade. Along the way you'll pick valuable advice on composition, posing, and modifying your camera angle for portraits with an uncommon look. The lesson concludes with a review of the images captured by Wallace, and he includes captions with all the pertinent gear and exposure settings used to get the shots.

Be sure to visit Wallace's instructional YouTube channel after watching the video we're you'll find more helpful advice on a wide variety of photographic genres.

And don't miss a tutorial we featured recently from another acclaimed portrait specialist with a unique niche who explains how she captures sensuous boudoir photographs with a dramatic low-key effect.