Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Shootout at High Noon

If you are out shooting at high noon, you might get better results using your Colt 45, than your camera. The midday sun is very harsh and makes for uncomplimentary portraits; It makes for harsh, unflattering shadows, squinting and poor exposures. If you aren't careful you might need your Colt after all. But if you can't choose the time of day, what can you do to save the day?

The first objective would be to get them out of the direct sun. There are two main ways to do this. Either you move them or shade them. In both cases you are trying to soften the light, not eliminate it.

Where do we move them to? How about under a tree, or an overhang, or around the corner of a building. These are places where you can find open shade and more even light, and it makes for better images.

If you are going to shade them where they already are, you are likely to need an assistant. Unless you have a full support team, this likely only works well for small groups. You could use a regular umbrella, but that is likely to cast an unnatural colour on your subject. The cameras white balance might compensate, or if you shoot RAW, you might fix it later, but the correct colour of both the subject and the background might be a challenge. A white bed sheet, drop sheet or shower curtain would work; even a large piece of thin white paper. The thicker the material the less the colour will matter. If you want to make an investment you could go and buy tools meant specifically for the job.

Now that you have successfully eliminated the too much light problem, you might need to add some back in with a flash or a reflector. I'll cover that another day.

Today's assignment: Practice. Convince a victim^h^h^h^h^h^h model to go outside during the midday and make some pictures in the direct sun and then again in some shade without flash and once more with the flash on. Study the results. Repeat the process until you are comfortable and like the resutls.

Advanced assignment: After doing the above assignment, try blocking the sun with something.
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