Tips + Techniques

Master Natural Light Photography with Nikki Closser

April 11, 2024

By Abbey Pleviak

When you master natural light, you can create amazing images in virtually any lighting scenario Mother Nature sends your way. In her portrait photography career of ten plus years, Nikki Closser has found that using the natural light of the sun is the easiest and most efficient way to create warm and authentic portraits, and she shoots 90% of her portraits without the aid of artificial light. Closser has compiled a treasure trove of rules of thumb and tricks of the trade for shooting natural light that she reveals in her new course, The Natural Light Masterclass, which is on sale for 75% off for a limited time at this link.

Nikki Closser’s new course, The Natural Light Masterclass shares how to get amazing shots using only natural light. © Nikki Closser

In her new course, Nikki Closser, Master Photographer with The Portrait Masters and host of The Portrait System Podcast, shows simple, low-cost ways to set up a natural light studio, including the best placement for a window (spoiler alert, South-facing windows are best!), how build your own inexpensive backdrops with polyboards, how to make outdoor shots look like they were taken in studio, and shooting professional headshots from a garage.

Nikki’s course includes how to get professional quality headshots using only natural light while shooting in a garage. © Nikki Closser

Closser also gives her pro tips on how to make the most of a variety of challenging outdoor lighting scenarios, including five different techniques for working in the harshest light of all – desert light, how to work with changing light situations, and working in golden hour and the blue hour after the sun sets.

The Natural Light Masterclass shows how to make the most of golden hour as well as blue hour after the sun has gone down. © Nikki Closser

Her course also includes five bonus modules shot in the Midwest from her extensive Outdoor and On-Location Photography course, offering ways to create stunning images even on a deeply overcast Spring day before the foliage has come into bloom, ways to decrease green cast while shooting in wild flower fields, and creating backlit portraits indoors.

Photographers might think it’s dreary to shoot outside in Spring when it’s still overcast and the foliage has yet to bloom, but the browns and yellows of dead grasses actually offers a lovely backdrop that keeps the focus on your client. © Nikki Closser

Closser does not hold back when it comes to sharing all she’s learned, and as in her other courses, she prioritizes anticipating and answering viewer questions, and she keeps her eyes on the prize – helping her viewers maximize the success of their businesses and their earning potential. She consistently gives advice on how to decrease your time in the editing room and increase the variety in the gallery you show your clients because more variety leads to bigger purchases.

Below she offers natural light photography tips from her course.

Even in the desert, lighting conditions can be variable and unpredictable. Nikki’s new course shows how to adjust for changing light conditions. © Nikki Closser

3 Natural Light Photography Tips from Nikki Closser

1. You don’t need to avoid full sun! Shooting in full sun can give you a gorgeous backlight around your subjects instead of boring light in the shade. When shooting in full sun, stand with the subject’s shadow pointing towards you with the subject’s back to the sun in order to get even light on the face and that beautiful glow around them. 

Below is an example that I did with my son at home on a random sunny day. I also demonstrate this throughout the photoshoots in The Natural Light Masterclass for you! 

© Nikki Closser

2. Use a reflector! During most of my photoshoots, I will have a reflector in hand. You can buy a “proper” reflector made for photographers, but in a pinch, I’ve also used pieces of white foam core, a white towel or sheet–anything white! A reflector will bounce beautiful light back to the skin and create a great catchlight in the eyes. During cloudy days, I prefer using a silver reflector to bounce extra light back, which helps avoid “raccoon eyes” that an overcast light can cause. You’ll see lots of examples of this during the course!

© Nikki Closser

3. For shooting indoors with natural light, all you need is a window, some sheer curtains, and a reflector! I built my business in a 6×9 foot corner of our old family room. Once I got to the point when I could rent a big studio, I still used a small corner of it most of the time! 

Here are some photos I’ve taken in natural light with the simple studio setup I show you during the course:

© Nikki Closser
© Nikki Closser
© Nikki Closser
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