Natural Light Portraiture – 2nd March 2013

The Secrets To Shooting Great Natural Light Portraits.

Shooting portraits in the studio using artificial light sources in a controlled environment is great but fantastic results can also be obtained by using natural light and following a few simple rules and techniques. Master photographer Steve Dutton, one of the most published magazine photographers in the UK, will be leading the training day.


Not everyone has access to a studio on a daily basis and all the equipment that is used in one, but everyone has access to natural light. The trouble is that shooting natural light portraits can be extremely challenging unless you know the secrets to using the light to your advantage rather than fighting against it.


We will show you the simple techniques that will make your pictures stand out from the crowd, you will also learn about the common mistakes made when people shoot natural light. Balancing flash light with ambient light will also be covered and you will be given enough information to enable you to begin to master this challenging technique.

Bring along your camera equipment as you will have plenty of time to put what you learn into practice.




The day will be studio based and also partly outside, weather permitting. We will be exploring other available light sources as well as natural light – for instance you will learn how to balance artificial light in with natural light, enabling you to provide fill light from your camera’s flash.

You will also learn how to maximise shooting in RAW in order to overcome the challenges that natural light can throw at you.

The training day will start at 10:30am prompt and we will finish at around 4:30pm.  The location is at Savile Bridge Studios, Dewsbury. It’s basically right opposite Asda car park on Savile Road. Do not park in Asda as there is a two hour limit, parking is best on Mill Street East. The cost for the day is £45, please bring lunch with you as food is not provided (although Asda is only a two minute walk away.)


Please email me to confirm your attendance –

This is the door (below) you need to enter through:Untitled-1

The Orton Effect

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The Orton effect is a fairly straight-forward effect that is applied in Photoshop, the effect results in adding a dreamy look to you photos, it works better on some pictures than others.

Developed by photographer Michael Orton, the effect was originally used with slide film. Two exposures were taken with the camera on a tripod, the first one would be taken out of focus and the second one taken in sharp focus. The two shots would be overlaid onto each other and the result was the dreamy and surreal look that we are about to demonstrate.

You can download the image in this example from the link below – it is free to do this but you must be a registered site user which is also free. You can register on the home page.

Orton Effect Original

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This is the image that we are going to use for this tutorial. It’s not a bad shot but it’s a little dull and I know that it will benefit from a little attention Photoshop. When you have downloaded the example image open it up  in Photoshop and then follow the steps below.

1. Duplicate Background Layer

First of all you need to duplicate the background layer, you can use the keyboard shortcut Ctrl-J (Cmd-J on Mac,) to do this.

Hit Ctrl-J twice and you will end up with three layers as per this screen shot here. Make sure that the top layer is highlighted by clicking on it and then change the layer blend mode to Screen.


Changing the layer blend mode to screen has the effect of overexposing the image. This is necessary as when we overlay the two layers later we need to get back to the correct exposure. This is the same as if we were shooting on film as to create the effect, Michael Orton had to overexpose each photo so when the two slides were put on top of each other they produced a correct exposure.

2. Adding the Blur Layer

Hit Ctrl-E (CMD-E on Mac) to merge the top layer with the middle layer, then with that new layer selected hit Ctrl-J to duplicate it so now you are back to three layers, the original background layer and then two over-exposed layers. Make sure that the top layer is selected and then go to Filters/Blur/Gaussian Blur.

ortonss2The amount of blur that you select will depend on the actual photo and also the size of the photo. Basically you want to move the slider so fine details disappear but objects are still visible. In this instance I have moved it to 10. Hit OK and then go and change the layer blend mode to Multiply and Hey Presto! the Orton effect right before your eyes.

Ideally we would have created an extra layer and used a mask to selectively apply the effect but I wanted to keep this tutorial short and simple. I hope you have fun with the Orton effect!

I have created a Photoshop action file that automates the above process, it can be downloaded below by registered site users (registration is free) Register HERE

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Sun Flare Portraits

Sun flare portraits can be quite tricky to get right but your perseverance is rewarded with beautiful images when you finally manage to catch one just right.

_IGP7919-Edit-RecoveredShooting with the sun as a backlight to create sun flare portraits creates all sorts of problems. For a start your camera is thinking “what the hell is going on here” when you point it anywhere near the 20 Zillion candle power brightness of the sun. It’s metering system goes AWOL and you can forget auto-focus giving you anything like an accurate result. All that light bouncing around inside the lens (especially at a wide aperture) will cause you major problems.

Anyone who has shot photos in a studio using high-key lighting and a white background will know that overexposing the background too much will mean a lot of glare entering the lens which has the effect of lowering the contrast of your subject, sometimes quite drastically. But it is this exact same effect that gives sun flare portraits their dreamy washed-out effect

The Technique For Sun Flare Portraits

Well in a nutshell you plonk your model down in a setting where the sun is behind them in relation to the camera. In the above example the sun isn’t directly behind the lovely Amy, it’s about 25 degrees to my right, so not as dramatic effect, but still loads of direct sunlight flooding into the lens.For this to work the sun needs to be fairly low in the sky (which it is almost all winter,) and you can control the amount of flare you get with the aperture setting of your camera. The example shot above was shot at f5.0, ISO 100, 125th of a second exposure with a focal length of 90mm on a cropped sensor.

You are really going to need to shoot in RAW as you will need as much latitude as possible in post processing to drag those highlights back and to bring your subject out of the shadows. It helps to know whether your camera handles highlights better than shadows in order to set your exposure correctly.

Sun flare portraits look a bit iffy straight out of the camera so you will almost certainly want to enhance them in post-processing. Lightroom is ideal for this purpose and it won’t take you long before you can get that late summer’s evening look to your photos… even if they were taken in February as was the photo above.


I have saved the settings I used to create these images as a Lightroom preset that can be downloaded below (this is FREE to registered site users only, register on the home page.)

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