Shooting at High Noon
In a perfect world, we would always shoot with perfect light at the right time of the day. But reality is different. We often have to shoot in terrible light at the wrong time of day. What to do? Create your own reality, or in this case, create your own light.
One assignment scenario I often face is shooting outside in the middle of the day. While this isn’t a big problem on a cloudy or overcast day, the light can be harsh on a sunny, blue-sky day with no shade. One option when shooting a portrait in this situation would be to put your subject under natural shade. Another alternative would be to put up a giant overhead silk for your model to stand under. But what if you don’t have shade or an overhead silk? As long as you have a flash or a reflector, you have room to maneuver.
Reflectors are inexpensive and simple to use. They reflect the sun back onto your subject, filling in those harsh shadows. Reflectors come in a variety of colors which will show up on your model. Gold reflectors add a warm tone to your subject, while a silver one will add a spectacular shiny light. This is a great choice if you don’t have a flash.
I personally prefer to use either speedlights or larger studio flash primarily because flash has the power and flexibility to allow us to change our background exposure. For example, if we want a dark sky in the middle of the day, we set our aperture at F22, ISO at 100 and shutter speed at 1/250. This exposure in the middle of the day will result in dark backgrounds. But since our Elinchrom Rangers can produce F22 of light, our flash exposure is correct. Reflectors, on the other hand, have limited means to control the amount of light they reflect. Generally, you move the reflector farther away from the subject to reduce the amount of reflected light. But since reflected light is a continuous source of light originating from the sun, if you underexpose the daylight you will also underexpose the reflector light.
We recently photographed a trail runner in the middle of the day. We wanted a bright shot, so we had to avoid dramatically underexposing the background (“dropping the background”). We used a single Elinchrom Ranger with a 53” Octabank and set the exposure so that the background would be around a 1/2 to 1 stop underexposed. This allowed our flash to come through in the final shot. We used the sun as our “second light”. Since the runner was running broadside to the sun, we had a cross lighting situation with the sun as one light and our strobe as the other light.
Be sure to always watch your shadows when shooting in direct sun. Having multiple shadows going in different directions will not make for a good image. These shadows generally show up on the ground below your subject. However, if you are shooting from the waist up, this isn’t as big of a problem.
For more from Tom Bol go to http://www.tombolphoto.com/