Shooting Glamour with Available Light

by | Sep 16, 2021

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

I’ve already said it a thousand times but still believe it’s true: The best way that you can improve your photography is practice. I think you should, at least, try to photograph something each day, each week until you get to where you don’t have to think about how to operate your camera. Don’t worry about producing masterpieces; use your camera as a sketchpad to explore possibilities. And don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Sometimes these mistakes will surprise you sometimes not, but learn from your analysis of the images. All this led me to suggest a few simple tips for improving your portraiture skills…

Look for convenient indoor locations where the best light is found. While it seems obvious, many photographs are just made in locations where the photographer or their subject decides to make it. This seem obvious and could work for an outdoor location but for indoor portraits it’s probably a good idea place your subject where the light is best.

Use wide-open apertures to soften and blur the background and focus attention on your subject. In my former home, my favorite place to shoot portraits was the kitchen and that’s where I made today’s featured image of Leslie. You may have a similar location in your home, and never thought that a kitchen or other unlikely location would be a great place to make a portrait. Think about it now.

Keep your lighting tools simple. Work with as few lighting tools as possible because the less time you spend fiddling with equipment, the more time you can spend putting your subject at ease. For my indoor window light portraits, I typically like using a reflector, such as Westcott’s 30-Inch 5-In-1 reflector ($29.90) that collapses to the size of a large pizza.

Watch the background. It’s so easy to become so enthralled by the person that you’re photographing that you forget about the background where you’ve placed them. I believe that if you watch the background, the foreground will take care of itself. Busy, ugly backgrounds can be thrown out of focus by using longer lenses and wide apertures. Outdoors it’s not uncommon to have to physically clean up an outdoor site before you can make a portrait. Taking the time to clean up the trash before you make an outdoor portrait leaves it clean for everybody else too.

Talk to your subject. I’ll never forget the advice my mentor gave me many years ago. When I asked what was the worst thing I could do when photographing people, I expected him to give me some technical tip but his answer surprised me. “If you don’t talk to the people you’re never going make a good picture.” I’ve never forgotten that advice and want to pass it on to you. Photographing people combines elements of psychology as much as camera technology and how you personally interact with your subject will have more to do with the success of your session than the camera or lens you decide to use.

How I Made this Portrait: I photographed Leslie in the kitchen of my former home using window light from a North-facing bay windows. I didn’t even use Westcott’s 30-Inch 5-In-1 reflector to help with fill but more importantly to reduce the contrast from this extreme lighting ratio. My bad. The camera used was a Canon EOS 50D with my former go-to portrait lens, the EF 28-105mm f/3.5-4.5 II USM lens (at 65mm.) Canon discontinued this useful lens but you can usually pick up used copies on Amazon or KEH for a reasonable price. Exposure was 1/160 sec at f/6.3 and ISO 800. Image was converted to monochrome using Silver Efex Pro with the Glamour Glow filter from Color Efex Pro added to reduce contrast.


You can learn all of my tips, tools and techniques on shooting available light glamour photography in my book surprisingly titled  Available Light Glamour Photography. New copies of the book are available from Amazon for $24.01 with used copies starting around twenty bucks, as I write this. Kindle copes are $22.49 if you prefer a digital format.