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1:26:59 Duration

Week 3: Lighting

Today I walk you through the natural light studio. This week I want you to learn to master the soft even lighting that flatters all faces.

The foundation of my brand was built on this style of light.

We will look at backlight, one of the most requested setups in my gallery. I’ve been shooting into the backlight for 20 years and it still is one of my favorite styles of portraiture.

Following backlight we look at adding a contrast backlight using the available light as a highlight and hair light for stunning images that introduce color and texture and contrast to a typically high key set up.

Lastly we explore both one and two strobes. Learn to feather, bounce and diffuse your strobes to shoot natural light style portraits, with a twist of vanity fair style.


    1. Jocelyn, are you talking about the white V flat used to reflect the lights? You can find it at camera stores, it’s basically a cardboard, white on one side and black on the other. You can also find poly boards, or insulation boards at construction stores. Ask at the big study group on facebook, many people will help you, as this is a very common question. Here is the link:

  1. Love the back light. I have a tall window in my studio and practicing the manual settings in back light. I am comfortable with constant light… soft box. Strobe is in the future.

  2. In this video, I’d like to know about what her settings are on the strobe, and on her camera when she had one strobe pointed at the wall and the white reflector on her other side. Because when she didn’t fire the strobe, there was almost NO ambient light coming in. However the room as very bright. I don’t think she said her settings. Thank you!

    1. Search for
      “12 week START UP Subscribers Only of Sue Bryce Education” on FB! 🙂

  3. Hi! Can one of the Admins from the study group on FB please accept my request to join. I keep getting denied. I go by my maiden name, Melissa Schomp, on FB. Thanks!

    1. Hi Nola, the Godox AD600BM is a great strobe that is cheaper than the Pro. In some countries it is rebranded as the Flashpoint 600 🙂

    1. I use two sets of V-Flats that I made from 4’x8′ gator board. Gator board is made from an extruded polystyrene foam that does not warp. One side of the gator board is white and the other is black. Of course, the V-Flats can also be used as backdrops. No assistants needed!

  4. I just bought an alien bee light and I am having a hard time finding the correct settings to expose correctly. I know I can’t rely on my meter and it’s really trowing off my exposure. Help please!

    1. Hi Esmeralda. You will need a handheld light meter which can read flash. I use the Sekonic L-308S which does the job perfectly.

    1. Hello Linda, I am having the same issue. I find that in a dark room with very little light I can expose fairly well with 100ISO/F8/160 but that does away with the creamy background

  5. I thought Sue was trying to achieve flat light, which is even light across the face, is it not, but the model doesn’t have even light on her face when she introduces the strobe and net curtain?

  6. Does anyone know what her camera settings are in this video? I’m having a hard time figuring out a good aperture/shutter speed for shooting into backlight

  7. I’m laughing at myself. I keep hearing “need a reflector.” Finally, I realized that there’s someone in the video named Nita. So, Sue is really saying: “Nita, reflector!” Great videos, Sue!

  8. I checked with the owner of the frame shop I use for my portraits to see if he would know where to get V flats, and to my surprise, they can get them for me thru their distributor. They are ordering me two 4×8, 1/2 inch thick, gatorboard panels which I will tape together with gaffer tape. $100 for the two of them and no shipping!! I am so thrilled!

  9. I loved seeing the V-Flats in action. I called around town a few months back and I wasn’t able to source anyone who would ship them to me. I’ll have to look again. It’s amazing what you can do with them.

  10. If I position my model facing the diffused window with the wall/backdrop behind her, do I still need reflectors on either side of her to produce even flat light?

  11. Need help as clueless male. I’m trying to sort out where the line between glare and highlights are. It seemed to me that a lot of the shots of Jane looked like they had some real hot spots. So seemed happy with them, so I need to get a better understanding of how much is too much? Don’t women use makeup to kill those kind of reflections?

    1. You are correct in your observation – there was a lot of hot spots on Jane, and yeah, she has a tendency to just skip right over that and any other item in the shoot that didn’t work out perfectly. 🙂 I guess she just wants to focus on the lesson she is trying to teach at that moment. Anyway, in any shoot, the goal is to NOT have any hot spots and, if you diffuse the natural light enough, generally you will not have hot spots. 🙂 Women do not like hot spots on their face. Glare on the other hand, is a matter of taste. Some people like it, some people don’t. Some people like a lot of glare,

  12. Sue – you make learning so easy. I am so grateful for this education. My folio has come on leaps and bounds since joining your site a year ago…..every time I rewatch a segment I learn something new. Definitely worth watch
    ing and rewatching again and again.

  13. Loving this and so many ah ha moments. However I’m thinking many of these set ups need numerous assistants and i work alone or use any relatives who have turned up but that’s not always possible.

  14. One question, if you are in a situation where you can’t shoot into a wall with the strobe. Can you use the VFlats instead? Especially on different locations one may be shooting in. Thanks

  15. Using rip stop fabric from the Fabric shop and 4 pieces of pvc pipe with corners, you can hack a nice scrim. Depending on whether it needs to be portable or not, you can attach the rip stop with glue for a permanent solution or attach velcro for a portable solution.

  16. Now THAT was incredibly THOROUGH! I actually cried tears of gratitude towards the end, that not only are you providing such a detailed and thorough education available to us, but that you are also doing it such a reasonable and affordable price! Thank you so much! 🙂

    1. I purchased mine from Amazon for less than $30 and it came with a clamp that allows me to attach it to a stool. I can move it anywhere.

    1. For the contrast backlight Yes, as long as it’s thick enough that light doesn’t shine through. Try it with the velvet drop too. I often drape the polyboards with fabric to change up the colour of the background.

  17. Love this, lots of memories coming back from high school and college for lighting, that I had forgotten and learning so much more what we can do with a poly board.

  18. Are many portrait photographers overexposing their work? (Not us Bryclings, of course.) I feel like I’ve been trained to expect overexposed images which has made me feel like mine weren’t right but I’m starting to think they are correct.

    1. Me! I was a chronic overexposer! But I love this tutorial, it gave just the perfect solution for the window-light effect.