I spend a significant amount of time just enjoying beautiful photography. I look at great photos on flickr, on the websites of other photographers, and I always look at the websites of people who comment on the blog and include a link to their site. In seeing all these photos, I am frequently surprised at how many photographers miss out on the opportunity to shoot night portraits. Perhaps it is because you (1) aren’t sure how to take a night portrait, or (2) haven’t thought of it before. Either way, let’s learn…
The key to a good night portrait isn’t the foreground at all, it’s the background. If the background is simply the darkness of light, the photo will look dull. In the photo featured on this page, I took this couple to a downtown area where I knew there were lots of beautiful lights to use as a background. To create a large light burst from each of the little lights in the background, I used a low aperture of f/2.8 and zoomed in to 200mm.
After finding a killer background, you’ll need to use flash to light the foreground. In this photo, I used a cheap $80 flash, a $10 shoot-through umbrella, and a $20 flash trigger. The light was placed 5 feet to the left of the couple and I had the couple look into the light for a dramatic effect.
This is just one example of how you can take beautiful portraits at night. Like this example, the set-up doesn’t need to be elaborate and the lighting gear need not be expensive. In fact, if I had brought expensive octaboxes, monlights, battery packs, and assistants on this shoot… it would have turned out almost identical to this shot which was done with the cheap gear that I had in my trunk at the time.
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