5 Tips to Make the Most of a Blue Sky in Portraits without a Flash.
February 17, 2023
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One mistake a lot of portrait photographers make constantly is to blow out the sky in their portraits. Raise your hand if that is ever you. My hand is up with you. I have plenty of portraits with the sky completely blown out. And sometimes that is unavoidable – on a gray day or when I want to use backlighting from the sun. But when you have a blue sky like the one below, you want that blue to make it through in your images. Here’s how to make it happen without a flash.
1. Put your subject in full sun.
I know. It can be uncomfortable for the subject, but hear me out. It doesn’t have to be super sunny, and she doesn’t look directly at the sun. Have her look to the side, or you get lower than your model, as I do below.
2. Underexpose Your Subject
Repeat after me: “Do not base your exposure solely on your subject.” When you set your exposure settings, it seems to make the most sense to expose for the lighting on your subject. But you really want to look at your entire frame, especially if you want to get those colors in the sky. My aperture is usually at 5.6 or higher when I’m trying to get a blue sky, and I adjust ISO and Shutter Speed accordingly. (And don’t judge me, but I rarely pay attention to how my camera is metering.)
3. Shoot in late afternoon.
If you want to avoid harsh shadows under your subject’s eyes, make sure to be out shooting when the sun is lower in the sky. The sun is usually bluer in the afternoon and the sun is at an angle that will create more flattering shadows. It also helps to be near reflective surfaces or walls to lesson those shadows.
4. If all else fails, find a window.
The reflections in windows can give you some beautiful sky blue colors because the reflection is less bright than the actual sky. If I want my subject in the open shade, I find some windows reflecting the sky.
5. Be okay with a little blow out
Sometimes the sky will be so bright or so gray that blow out is better than actually showing the sky. In this case, I concentrate on my subject and any other background I have available when I expose.
I hope these tips help you to capture some beautiful portraits with bright blue skies!
Hi there! I'm Lindsay Corrigan and I create authentic and beautiful natural light portraits for families, dancers and graduating seniors in Eastern North Carolina.