Tips + Techniques

3 Natural Light Photography Techniques From Home

April 1, 2021

By Caroline Tran

After the pandemic first hit last year, I let go of my photo studio—a space I had relied on for the past 10 years. With California on lockdown and no reopening in sight, it just didn’t make sense for me to continue to pay for a space I wasn’t going to be able to use. But I did have some fear about the decision, along with some questions: Where I would shoot in the meantime? Would the transition be seamless for my clients? Would I be able to recreate the same natural light photography techniques to maintain my brand?

[Read: Caroline Tran’s Posing Pick Up Points for Family Portrait Photography (Free Webinar)]

Another issue I had was that my studio had huge north-facing windows, giving me beautiful indirect natural light all day long. Without that, I found myself recreating my studio shoots in my house, my backyard—even in my driveway. The trick was to make all of the setups with slightly tweaked natural light photography techniques look the same for brand consistency, regardless of where they were shot.

[Read: How to Imitate & Enhance Natural Light, Indoors and Out]

caroline tran's photography gear includes fujifilm camera and profoto strobe
My go-to gear, the Fujifilm GFX and GF 45-100mm lens, along with a Profoto B10 strobe. I use these in tight spaces when I don’t have enough room for a modifier.

For my clients who felt comfortable shooting indoors, the room I used to shoot in my home is only about 8 x 10 feet—too tight for my backdrop and my usual Profoto XL umbrella softbox.

[Read: 3 Ways to Mimic Natural Light in a Windowless Photo Studio]

However, to mimic the natural light look, I needed a large light source. So instead of relying on a large modifier, I bounced my strobe into the corner behind me instead and was able to mimic the natural light look that my clients have come to love and expect.

[Read: 4 Common Misconceptions of Shooting Natural Portraits with Artificial Light]

caroline tran's natural light photography techniques in-home studio setup
My indoor setup with a flash bounced into the corner behind the camera.

For clients who preferred shooting outdoors, I offered outdoor studio sessions, where I would construct my usual studio setups either in my backyard or driveway.

caroline tran's natural light photography techniques outdoor studio setup

For these outdoor sessions, the key to mimicking the indoor studio look is to have your light come more from the side (like a window would) and not overhead.

[Read: Best Natural Light for Photography—5 Types and Tips]

To soften the overhead light, I set up a white pop-up tent, like the ones you would see at a farmer’s market. I also clamped white bed sheets to the sides to diffuse any direct light coming in. These natural light photography techniques essentially helped me recreate that small white room so that light can bounce all around and fill in the shadows.

Caroline Tran is a wedding and lifestyle photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. Learn more about lighting and flash with her course, All About Light and All About Flash! As a former physics teacher, Caroline’s specialty is breaking down complex ideas into comprehensive bite-sized lessons that are easy to consume and understand.