It’s sunset at the beach and I’m going to show you two of my favorite natural light portrait setups for photographing couples.

Video: 2 Natural Light Portrait Setups for Couples at the Beach

We’re here at the mouth of a cave as it approaches golden hour. My goal is to use the direction of the sunlight with the cave opening to create dramatic scenes with deep shadows. As with most natural light portrait setups, my gear list is short and simple:

  1. Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Camera
  2. Canon RF 15-35mm f/2.8L Lens (I recommend a wide angle lens)

Setup #1

My composition for my first setup captures the opening of the cave at an angle.

natural light portrait setup

This angle allows me to place my models, Tyson and Olivia, in the brighter area of the frame as Olivia leads Tyson out. Exposing for the sky will prevent any highlights from blowing out while retaining plenty of shadow detail.

Pro-tip: When shooting toward the direction of light, have your models slightly turn their faces to their sides to capture the highlights.

natural light portrait close up

Here is closer angle of the same setup.

Related Reading: Step-by-Step Guide to Capturing Our Favorite Signature Portrait

Setup #2

For this setup, I’m going to place Olivia and Tyson directly in front of the sun. For looks like these, it’s a good idea to wait until the sun is fairly low in the sky. I got down close to the ground to compose Olivia and Tyson in the brightest part of the frame. I also positioned the camera in Olivia’s shadow to capture those beautiful highlights from the sun.

natural light portrait looks
Edited with Visual Flow > Modern Pack

From here, I’m able to move closer and capture a variety of looks.


I hope you enjoyed these two natural light portrait setups for couples! To learn more about photographing couples, check out our Engagement Photography course on SLR Lounge Premium. From there, you can expand your skills with our Wedding Photography Training System, Posing Workshop, and more, all within our Premium library. For more of our intuitive Lightroom presets like we used in today’s tutorial, visit Visual Flow.

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!