The Sun is Not Your Friend

August 19, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

 

In addition to causing skin cancer and overall inferno like conditions in the summer the sun is also one of the leading causes of bad photography. Generally speaking you don’t want to conduct a portrait session of just about anyone in direct open sunlight. Now there are always exceptions to the rule but I will not go in detail over the few instances where you would actually use the sun to your advantage. Mostly it all depends on the look you want to achieve and since most of the time you want to flatter the people and not make them look like harsh zombies with skin problems we’ll just stick with soft beautiful light. 

And beautiful soft gorgeous light it is. So how do we get that kind of light??? As the word implies we make it softer. When you look at shadows and its edges are hard, you have hard light, but if you have soft edges, you have soft or diffused light. You always want to either place your subject or create an environment where you have soft light. 

Cloudy days are amazing for soft light, all the clouds in the sky soften the light coming from the sun and create a perfect gigantic softbox. What if its not overcast? The next best thing is to shoot in early morning or late evening when the sun isn’t directly above. What if you must shoot in mid day? Here’s a couple of life saver tips.

First off, find a shadow, either from a large tree or a structure casting shade. Those are the perfect spots. What if you can’t find shade or the perfect spot is in full sun?? In that case you bring the shade to you. There are a number of professional tools to help do just that. 

 

Quinceanera, Event, Photography, Yasmin Vieyra_AF_5195

Last year while shooting an assignment Quinceañera for Tamayo Studio of Dalton GA, we came across this marvelous man made mini cascade but it was full sun and we couldn’t come back to shoot later. A quick shoot reveals the hideous problems. The image has entirely way to much contrast and is ruined by the harsh light.

Thankfully I had brought along with me my Photoflex LitePanel Kit. This is an amazing tool and quickly folds up and stores for transport. Unfortunately its very very pricey. If you don’t have the money or don’t need a big expense you can DYI. Build one yourself out of PVC pipe.

 

Quinceanera, Event, Photography, Yasmin Vieyra_AF_5191-Edit

After a quick set up and I re-composed the shoot and took several images. All of them amazingly beautiful, you can see the huge difference a shadow can make. 

 

IMG_5204

Another approach is using diffusion disks, or 5 in one reflectors, these can be skinned down and the interior has a soft translucent fabric, much like the LitePanels. For one of my school assignments I used the larger disk to soften the light from the direct sun and the smaller silver disk to create a nice highlight on the side of his face. 

 

Student, "Alejandra Saavedna García" "Dalton State College"Contreras_J_ExtPortrait_Week7_5219-Edit

The resulting image was one of the best grades I received all quarter.


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