Photography Tips and Tutorials

The Essentials for Natural Light Portrait Photography: Nikon Edition


So you may have just bought your very first DSLR and you went out to take a few shots of a friend or family member. You fill up a memory card and head back to your computer to edit all those wonderful images expecting to get that shallow depth of field look. Instead you got everything in focus with a very distracting background! Or maybe there were shadow’s under your subjects eyes making them look a bit scary! Well all is not lost! With a few basic pieces of gear you can wildly improve your portrait photography and capture the images you want!

The Equipment:

The 50mm focal length is perfect for natural light portraits, it’s not as long as the typical 85mm (and a heck of a lot less expensive) but the shorter focal length helps to keep everything stable in dim situations. When it comes to Nikon you really have two options when you’re looking to get into portrait photography on a budget and these will be mostly determined by your camera.

Nikon AF-S 50mm f1.8G

This is Nikon’s latest and greatest 50mm g1.8 lens. Not only does it have a new and improved focusing system, but it also has a rear gasket to help keep dust and dirt out but it also has a continuous manual override, a very useful addition for any portrait photographer. Total – $216.95 (Get it at B and H)

Nikon AF 50mm f1.8d

This version of the 50mm lens is suited to those that are using a Nikon D7000 body or up. Yes, I know this is almost half the price of the 50mm f1.8g, but there is a reason why it won’t work on your D3400 or D5500 and it comes down to the D at the end of the name. D series lenses require an aperture control ring, it’s a small ring with a tab around the lens mount. This ring physically moves and controls a corresponding part on the lens which in turn moved the aperture. So if you have a D7000 or up you’re in luck, if not grab the G version and lets move on to the next piece of equipment! Total – $131.95 (Get it at B and H)

5-in-1 Reflector 

With natural light photography you have to be in control of the light. You have no way to add artificial light when the subject is to dark, but you do have the ability to bounce the light that is already there! Now you may need several of these and a few helping hands, but its amazing what you can do with these. Simply find the light and reflect it to where you want it to go. It also works very well for shading and offering a diffused light from the sun or a flash so your subject isn’t in harsh light. Total – $23.95 (Get it at B and H)


For some, tripods have gone the way of the dinosaurs but for natural light portraits I am still a firm believer in them! Not only do they help to reduce motion blur in lower light situations but they can also provide a handy place to lead your reflector up against when you don’t have any extra hands! Now this is a completely optional addition, but I never go anywhere without mine! Total – $148.45 (Get it at B and H)

Total Damage: $155.90 – $389.35

Not a bad range for a setup that will serve you for quite a number of situations! Once you get the basics you can easily branch off into artificially
lit portraits with the addition of a few speed lights, but that’s for another article!

So here is The essentials for natural light portrait photography: Nikon edition. Tell me what your essentials are, I’d love to see what everyone’s favorite equipment is!


    1. Thanks for checking out my site! I used a template from the Cresta Project called Fora Pro. Its easy to use and allows me to do everything I want at a reasonable price. There is even a free option with a bit less control. Might be worth checking out if your looking for a new look!

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