While high-fashion and glamour photography often rely on sophisticated, precise lighting patterns and techniques to highlight the perfectly sculpted features of models, in the real world, elaborate lighting setups are overkill for many of our clients, so it's not exactly necessary to invest thousands of dollars in lighting equipment in order to be successful as a portrait photographer.
Truth is, the simplest lighting can be very attractive, and by learning a few tricks and techniques, you can become a highly successful photographer, creating beautiful portraits for your clients using minimal equipment and available light.
EQUIPMENTAlthough shooting professional portraits doesn't require a lot of costly equipment, there are a few things every mobile portrait photographer should carry with them, because when shooting outside of a studio setting, the light can be relatively unpredictable. At times, the light can be too harsh and directional, or it can be too soft and flat. It's a rare occasion where the light is absolutely perfect, so having these items on hand will allow you to take unpredictable light and shape it to your needs, which is a key skill for any natural-light photographer to have.
Probably the most important piece of gear that you can carry with you (aside from your camera and lens) is a reflector. I recommend getting what's referred to as a 5-in-1 reflector. This is a disk that has a number of different surfaces with which you can control lights in specific ways. The surfaces of a 5-in-1 and their uses are as follows:
Silver. This surface is used to reflect light back onto the subject with a bit of contrast. It can add some bright, defining highlights to your subject while filling in shadows. It's also great for adding a catchlight to your subject's eye, which can sometimes be lacking in available-light portraits.
White. The white surface is used to add a neutral, gentle fill light to bring out the detail in shadowy areas. The white surface keeps the fill light a consistent color and helps to reduce contrast.