Shoot Beautiful Natural Light Portraits (No Matter the Weather)

Shoot Beautiful Natural Light Portraits (No Matter the Weather)

Natural light photographer Emily Supiot, of Cozy Clicks Photography, has dealt with almost every type of weather in her hometown of Phoenix, Arizona. From bright sun to rain showers, Emily believes photographing should be doable in any condition. With her tips and tricks for producing stunning photos regardless of the forecast, Emily will convince you to pack up your gear and encourage yourself and your clients to embrace the great outdoors!

Natural light photography can be complicated. The weather can change in an instant and it’s hard to predict what conditions you’ll be shooting in when you are scheduling sessions months in advance. It’s important to know how to shoot in all types of weather conditions so that the lighting is the most flattering to your clients. It is also a good idea to let your clients know early on the weather conditions you are most comfortable shooting. That way if they wake up the day of their session to gloomy, overcast skies, they’ll know that their photographs will still look gorgeous.


Blue skies and sunshine make for a perfect day to play outside, but for natural light photographers, it can actually be very tricky. First, time of day is extremely important. I always shoot approximately one hour before the sun sets, this way I know the light will not be extremely harsh. Scheduling your photo shoots right before sunrise is also optimal. Next, I try to shoot with the light directly behind or just slightly to the side the subject. This allows for a subtle glow on their hair and illuminates them with soft light. If you find that there is not enough light in the face, you can always use a reflector to bounce the light from the sun onto them. Finally, if you are shooting in the middle of the afternoon on a bright day, look for open shade. If your subject is right in the light at high noon, the shadows will be too harsh and unflattering. Find shade in which your subject can stand, but ensure you are standing in the sunny, well lit area just outside of the shade. Areas like this can sometimes be found where there are heavily shaded trees or the awning of a building. Using open shade will eliminate harsh, blotchy shadows while still providing light in your subject’s eyes to shine through.

Examples of open shade (left) and sunset or "golden hour" lighting (right)


With a cloudy and overcast day, the choices are limitless. The stress of looking for the best light is eliminated because the light is great everywhere! Now, it’s true that on a cloudy day the creative use of light and sunsets diminish. However, the perfectly constant and smooth light will allow you to be more creative with your compositions since you will be able to utilize any area without fear of harsh sunlight. If you still feel like you are missing that added dimension of highlight, try incorporating a reflector or have an assistant hold up a large white sheet to attempt to introduce some bright light.

Examples of back lighting (left) and overcast conditions (right)


Rainy days are probably one of the most feared weather conditions for photographers as it could mean you must cancel or reschedule. But, do you really have too? The answer is up to you, but shooting on a rainy day can be done! I don’t recommend taking your gear out in a rainstorm unless you have protective waterproof equipment. I also wouldn’t go out if there is a chance of lightning. If you have an assistant or willing helper, another option might be to have them hold a large umbrella over you. If you would rather not go out into the rain, you could shoot from under a covered porch or building. Another possibility is shooting your subject through an open window or door. Generally on a rainy day the light is pretty dark, so don’t be afraid to crank up the ISO on your camera and make sure your shots are exposed correctly. With the rain coming down, it can make for some beautiful photos. Your subjects, however, are bound to get a little wet!

Example of lighting in rain showers or wet conditions

How do you handle the weather during natural light sessions? Have you experimented with shooting in the rain? What techniques worked and didn't when shooting in inclement weather? Let us know in the comments below.

Emily Supiot