All too often, photographers approach a scene and settle with the walk-up shot. Then, we wonder how the pros are taking such captivating portraits. Truth is, a lot of it is right there in the composition. While there are many things that make a good photograph, composition is a great place to start improving your natural light portraits instantly.

Video: 4 Composition Tips for Improving Your Natural Light Portraits


Let’s start with our own walk-up shot of Kiara.

Not bad but it leaves a lot of room for improvements. I’m going to walk through 4 techniques that you can essentially “stack” to improve your natural light portraits step-by-step.

My toolbox today is simple: My Canon EOS R5 with my RF 28-70mm f/2. Let’s jump in.

Related Reading: Combining Compositional Techniques for Stronger Portraits

Technique #1: Shift Your Angle For Background Exposure

In our walk-up shot, the first thing you’ll notice is that the background is considerably brighter than Kiara. Instead, move around until you find a background that’s around the same brightness as your subject.

natural light portraits background camera angle

An immediate improvement, right?

Technique #2: Simplify the Background

natural light portraits simplify your background

I want to simplify the background and draw more attention to Kiara. If you have a busy background, you can try moving your subject by a wall.

You can also use a low aperture setting to further blur out a busy background.

Technique #3: Add a Foreground

So far, we’ve talked a lot about the background. Now, we’re going to add in a foreground by moving slightly behind the wall. Foreground elements are great for further isolating your subject or adding more interest to your natural light portraits.

Technique #4: Angle Your Subject Toward the Highlights

natural light portraits turning to the highlights

Our main light source here is simply the open sky. To help accentuate the highlights, turn your subject toward that light.


natural light portraits composition steps

Super simple, right? These 4 steps are all you’ll need to start improving your natural light portraits instantly.

natural light portraits
Edited with Visual Flow > Mood Presets

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial! If you’d like to go even deeper into how to improve your photography, check out SLR Lounge Premium. There, you’ll find tons of in-depth courses such as Flash Photography, Building a Photography Business, Mastering Lightroom Editing, and more. You can also visit Visual Flow for a ton of intuitive Lightroom presets and retouching tools for your own editing workflow.

Don’t miss our next episode of Mastering Your Craft on Adorama’s YouTube channel next week! If you want to catch up on all the episodes, make sure you check out our playlist!