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This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Four-Day Photo Course

“Follow me into the back alley.”

That’s what I say when someone asks me to take his or her photo.

Why?  Just take a look at these two photos. The first one was taken in direct sunlight. The second was taken in the shade in an alley behind my home in Portland.

See how much better the light is in the second photo?  He doesn’t have to squint to look at the camera.  And there are no hard shadows on his neck or the collar of his jacket.

It might sound weird, but if you want to take good photos of people, scope out a few nearby alleys (as long as they’re safe). They’re often the ideal place to photograph people — especially on bright sunny days.

Here’s the alley where I shot my model…

Notice that there’s no direct sunlight overhead.

Also,see how the sunlight is reflecting off of the big white wall across from him? The entire right side of this alley is acting like a big, soft light reflector. It’s perfect for portraits.  It even puts a nice glint in his eye! Take a look:

The trick is knowing where to place your subject in a space like this.

In back alleys, there’s typically a shady side and a sunny side, depending on the time of day.  You can’t really see the difference between these two sides in the above photograph but I’ve placed him on the shady side and you should do the same.

Here’s what to look for:

  • Open shade – Make sure to place your subject in the shade, so you don’t get the dreaded squinty-face.
  • Soft, Reflected Light – Find a place where sunlight bounces off a wall across the way. That will make the light soft and flattering for your subject.
  • Neutral Color – Beware of large patches of green grass or brightly colored walls that will reflect strange colors onto your subject.

What to do if it’s not sunny:

Skip the alley andshoot anywhere!! Overcast light is perfect for portraits. You’ll get even skin tone, a glint in the eyes, and soft light. Take a look:

Now invite your friends into your favorite back alleys for some photos… and make sure you get a model release so you can sell them as stock!

And keep your camera handy, because tomorrow I’ll give you another no-brainer photo trick to make your photos pop.

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]

Series NavigationPhoto Course Day Two: How to Make the Background Blurry in Photos >>

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