Taming natural outdoor light?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by Garbz, Jun 3, 2007.

  1. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    203
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I'm opening this discussion to try and get people to share how they would light their subjects in various situations. Now I know the "rules" but each of them also have problems and pros and cons. What would you do if you can't photograph in the afternoon, or if you can't position the subject so they don't face the sun? What are some of the techniques?

    We've all heard to photograph during golden hour, the lighter side of sunrise and sunset. At this point the sun is not very harsh, shadows are softer and the world has a golden glow to it. But anything facing the sun is forced to squint. I've managed to maximise my ability to shoot this by using the sun as more of a back light and flashing as my primary, or putting the sun on the side and reflecting a fill light, but I don't think this is ideally maximising the lighting at this time.

    An easier option would be to shoot at around 3-4pm when the sun is still high above the horizon. That way people models don't squint, but some form of filling is a must since the shadows would often turn the models into raccoons.

    Mind you the easiest way to avoid raccoon eyes is to shoot when its cloudy. But then how do you then restore life to the colourless grey world in your photo?

    Also short of setting up huge diffusing tents with massive reflectors how do you cope with being forced to shoot at 12-1pm?

    How do you tame the sun?
     
  2. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Messages:
    7,500
    Likes Received:
    478
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    WITHOUT Scrims, Fill cards, or Reflectors?

    Strobes, some sort of fill flash.

    You can also move into a different location, like into the shade and use the rest of the sky to light your subject.
     
  3. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2006
    Messages:
    6,071
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    in the middle of north carolina
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Always off camera fill flash for me. Better safe than sorry is my approach.

    If I can't use a strobe, which means I have had three die on me all at the same time, I would use a hand held meter to read the part of the subject I wanted to be exposed properly then set my camera accordingly. Yes it will blow out the highlights, but it will also give me a print without heavy contasty shadows.

    Get then out of the sun into the shade is my second approach, if all else failed and it has by that time if none of that is doable, find a quiet bar and have a few drinks till the sun heads down.
     
  4. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    203
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    No Switch I mean any method. If you use fill cards or reflectors (god know you have to most of the time) then let's hear it. If bring out a whole studio lighting setup I am interested in that too. Just trying to find out what people do in various situations.

    Actually the Strobist had another one I didn't mention above. Use the sun as a background or fill light only, and use a flash for a primary.

    mysteryscribe blown highlights are very underrated on this forum. Sometimes they help the image, yet there's always someone who seems to find them offensive.

    I do remember seeing a photo a friend took in the early afteroon. He positioned his girlfriend so the sun cast a shadow across her entire front and then exposed for the shadow. The end result was the background completely annihilated, and blown highlights across her head and shoulder but an otherwise very pleasing high-key portrait.
     
  5. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    11,441
    Likes Received:
    2,100
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas, USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Aside from the mentioned, I learned a little trick from a student of Monty Zucker. I put my 580 on a light stand with it pointing down and a Sto Fen on the end as a diffuser. I'm thinking a Gary Fong would be even better. (I have to get one of those one of these days.) Pocket wizards and manual settings for fill flash. Nice smooth light and does wonders when they are under trees with splotchy shadows from light filtering through the leaves.
     
  6. skieur

    skieur TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    May 14, 2007
    Messages:
    5,076
    Likes Received:
    202
    Location:
    Canada
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Yes, I don't find that blown out highlights ever help an image. They distract the eye from the centre of interest.

    Excellent portraiture always requires a lot of work in both planning and preparation and in postprocessing. Blown out highlights are unneccessary and more unrecoverable than a little under-exposure around the eyes. So try cloudy days, reflectors...natural or otherwise, and fill flash or natural light and then if necessary do some selective postprocessing.

    skieur
     
  7. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2006
    Messages:
    6,071
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    in the middle of north carolina
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    high Key photography is defined by what is called here blown out high lights.
     
  8. Garbz

    Garbz No longer a newbie, moving up!

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2003
    Messages:
    9,713
    Likes Received:
    203
    Location:
    Brisbane, Australia
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    gryphonslair99 so you're saying bounce light from the ground to fill the shadows? I'm a bit worried about people with big eyes getting a swollen look in their faces when being lit from too far down, but I assume if the light is diffuse and dark enough it could work very nicely. Will have to try that when exams are over.

    skieur not all blown highlights are created equal. I am talking about what mysteryscribe has said. There was a post in the people and pets forum of someone standing in front of a huge softbox. He had another 3/4 backlight which gave him a very distinct blown out halo, yet the very first thing someone said is the highlights are blown. Of course they are. It wouldn't have been nearly as good an image if they weren't, which is what I was talking about here.
     
  9. Sw1tchFX

    Sw1tchFX TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    May 3, 2006
    Messages:
    7,500
    Likes Received:
    478
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos NOT OK to edit
    I try and use the sun as a HAIR LIGHT, if i'm out in the afternoon. Than I use some sort of fill for everything else.
     
  10. Don Simon

    Don Simon TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Jul 4, 2005
    Messages:
    2,484
    Likes Received:
    0
    That's right. With black and white film blown highlights are pleasing. Digital blown highlights are hideous. ;)
     
  11. mysteryscribe

    mysteryscribe TPF Noob!

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2006
    Messages:
    6,071
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    in the middle of north carolina
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    Don't know much about digital photography, but the high key 'girl in the white, bright white, background is a staple in film studio Glam stuff. I have no problem with the lack of detail as long as it isn't on the subject. Even then the hot spots were a fact of life that you dont have to live with any more.

    Why a detail challenged background on a portrait is a problem here I have no idea. A Portrait is supposed to be ALL about the subject.

    That is a problem I still have. I am so used to overlooking them that they don't really bother me all that much. When i do notice them I take them out a quick two minute fix if that.

    Why there is a problem with blown out backgrounds in portraits here amazes me. Portraits are ALL about the subject all the rest is filler. Enviornmental portaits are a challenge but when faced with a well lit face or a blown background guess what I would choose.
     
  12. gryphonslair99

    gryphonslair99 Been spending a lot of time on here!

    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2006
    Messages:
    11,441
    Likes Received:
    2,100
    Location:
    Wichita, Kansas, USA
    Can others edit my Photos:
    Photos OK to edit
    No, the power should not be that strong of output to do this. It is basiclly a diffused fill light, not a bounce. You could point the head at the people, but I have found that wide side towards the subjects, head down gives the most pleasing diffused fill. This is strictly an outdoor trick. The irregular gound, be it grass, dirt (ugly) etc do not bounce the light, rather it tends to scatter it or mute it. That is why I wondered about a Fong. It seems to diffuse nicely, not really bounce light of the surface above.
     

Share This Page