Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Your natural light studio

We photographers always love the latest pieces of studio gear to elevate our photography skills to a higher level, but we tend to forget that the most important studio equipment that we have is God-given: our eyes. I love to do outdoor portraiture using daylight. In order to create natural looking portraits, we have to learn how to "see the light". By knowing so, we will be able to understand natural light much better and know exactly what to add or subtract when we have modifiers next time.

Although cloudy days are great for diffused light, sunny days are much better in my opinion because light can reflect off a variety of surfaces for the extra 'punch'. One tactic of utilising daylight is using natural reflectors which are almost anything, really: tree foliage, signs, sidewalks, and buildings. Just be aware of the opportunities which are present, and use them to your advantage.

In this image, the colourful building behind the model is used as a gobo to block direct sunlight (and its also a very cool backdrop) while the glass building in front acts as a huge reflector that projects a single point source of light onto the model for a very dramatic look.

In this example, I positioned the model between a pair of white sculptures while the sun behind her gives some backlighting to her hair and shoulders. Don't overdo it, unless you want some really bleached out skin, so the placement of the model is quite important in this case.

I had no trouble adding light to the shadow areas, because light was reflecting everywhere from the white sculptures and the concrete sidewalk. Just be aware of using light from below; if its too strong, it creates a "ghoul lighting effect" which isn't too pleasing.

I love to position my models underneath trees because the dappled lighting from sunlight travelling through the foliage can give some interesting effects, while at the same time the green background serves as a very pleasant backdrop. Be careful about the dappled lighting, because uneven spots on her face can be a very unpleasant thing.

Although this image uses natural lighting, I did use a hint of direct fill flash. Why is that, you may ask?

Well, comparing this image and the one above, this example lacks the vibrancy that the fill flash gives, especially on the skin areas. You could perhaps correct this in post processing, but I prefer to get the effect right straight from the camera. Your mileage may vary, of course.

Although Joe McNally could easily recreate this effect using the acclaimed Nikon CLS system, the warm light coming from the window was reflected from the adjacent sand stone surface and lighted up the model's face beautifully.

Although this courtyard is fully enclosed, the sunlight was strong enough to enable light to be reflected off the surfaces of the building opposite. The final effect is a very soft, pleasing and directional light.

So what are you waiting for? Get off your lazy bums, take that beautiful model friend of yours out on a sunny day, and start shooting!

1 Comment:

Joseph Boey said...

Hi Brandon,

I like your pictures very much... and the ideas were enlightening... Good Post


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