Subtractive Lighting In Urban Areas

My previous post on using subtractive light to take great natural light portraits got a very nice response, so I thought I’d follow up with another tip.

If you’re shooting in a heavily built-up urban area, with lots of high-rise buildings and other looming structures, an incredibly easy way to get great portrait lighting is simply to position your subject facing the sun, but in the shadow of something. In other words, if the sun is in the east, the subject is facing east, but there’s a building in the way. Use a nice lens (my favorite portrait lens is the Canon 85mm 1.8) with a wide aperture to put selective focus on your subject, and you’ve got upscale-looking shots that work perfectly for corporate, editorial or fashion work.

Here are a few examples from a recent corporate assignment where I used this technique. These images are from three different cities, and I used shadows from trees, buildings and even the awning of a parking garage.

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