Crappy Lighting Conditions: Direct Sunlight
Let's start off with number one uh and I'm gonna cover this one and of course you can add l you're brilliant expertise but I'm going talk a little bit about direct sunlight um and we're not actually going to talk about in this overpowering the sun with a flash because you don't have to we're trying to keep it kind of simple so direct sunlight let's take a look at this um the problems that you have bright highlights on the face and dark shadows in other words there's a really high contrast range which looks really bad on people it looks awful can't capture the entire exposure so you got to kind of pick do you want the highlights to be correctly exposed to want the shadows to be correctly exposure try to get something in the middle so you have everything um unflattering and another one is the squinting eyes which is another thing when educating my clients were trying to I do wish portrait session at high noon like you know a lot of times if it's bright people get really squinty and then ...
you can see the wrinkles more okay see, I used this thing I do is e just gotta build him back up on set your beautiful see you look, you listen to me look at that light exactly exactly scored this um solution will start after this one find shade I mean that's the easy one and that's the obvious one if you have shaped the next thing we're going to be covering is what to do if there isn't any shade in sight um so finding shade using a shade using shave plus adding reflector in and then finding natural fletcher so let's take a look at a couple of these natural reflectors so we already touched on this but I wanted to give you a demonstration this is sarah she's a friend of mine and she's very agreeable toe let me like her in the worst light possible um and so I'm photographing herds near high noon um says that the corner where I live and the latin her face is awful but what I see behind her is a large light colored apartment building lit by the sun so the difference between these two pictures is this just facing forward and then she faces the other way one eighty that's it this is a different so if you take a look at the quality of light on her face it is a good night and day I mean it is come completely different I have not added a reflector I've added a diffuser but I kind of had a reflector but I used the building um and you know if you were shooting this you could go ahead and add a reflector in to add a little bit more filter her eyes but a lot of times that's going to make for a great portrait anyway, so looking for a natural electors makes easy so you did the group shots on the church? Yes, this is exactly what I would do for the group shot none of us on a fifty foot reflector, but there's buildings everywhere and I was also often asked to photograph sports teams when they have the big groups of people, and if there was like a gym or something that was light like a white jim like y m c a, I would do the same thing and I'd have it so it's shot right across from that trying to make my job a little bit easier. But something to be aware of is that whatever is your natural reflector has to be completely neutral. If it's not, you'll pick up that color on the subject's face so you can't quite see it, but that's yellow paint behind me on the left wei have yellow model and you can fix a little bit imposed but it's it's not something that I would recommend of the ones to watch out for are the ones that look like like a light grey but actually blew in them that like kind of bluish gray that one will hire the chef so cool why is it that would be why so watch out for that as well um and so the next one I say take cover just get out of the direct sunlight do it you can um and then add a reflector back in so let's take a look at some things to watch out for when you use a reflector most of the time many photographers are using the ones that are like the thirty two inch that's really common something around there um yeah it's kind of kind of range thirty to forty um they're usually circular often and what happens is if you were close to your subject so let's say that you are like five, six feet away if you're catching the sun to fill back in you're actually giving a beam of light a flashlight of daylight which is wides on her hip in this one where is over here it's more correctly on on her face so just if you have, you know it's it's the her brother for example helping with reflector if they just stand like this, it might not be doing you any good. So this comes down to when you're photographing groups of people let's say that you have a whole bunch of people and you've got this little reflector and it's just letting mom and dad it's not letting everyone is issue although usually they want the kid's looking yeah um so for something like this what I recommend for the group of people is you need to back up ok when you back up with that reflector away from the subject example that I've used. If you've seen me on creative live teach a couple times for lighting is the bucket example, I think of light like a bucket of water, so I have a bucket of water and I'm standing right next to you, and I throw it what same thrown at your face. Sorry. Uh, it might just hit, like right here because I'm so close it doesn't have room to spread out. But if I back up over here I saw that same bucket of water. It spreads out and sew it more evenly will light your subject so that's, what you would do with a group of people, you would do the same thing, you would take the reflector, you would back up and try to bounce it in. The problem you run into is that if you have a small reflector like thirty two inch there's, not enough water, by the time I back up and try to throw water, all of you, it doesn't even reach you. So this is an instance where you would want a bigger reflector and both of us have solutions for that we use. Wait, both use. Uh, you scream jim's. We're going. We'll be talking about all these things to actually be able to see them. But we use the scream gym, which is a large frame, and you'll see a picture of it in a few minutes. Um, and add a reflective surface to that. They come in a bunch of different sizes. I have a six by six foot so I can give myself a six by six foot silver reflector back up and bounce it in. Um, I also have a couple california sun bounce reflectors before by six foot one of those, which is really nice because it's, it has a nice handles. It's easy, tio. Hold on to a few shoe. Yeah, it's. More like a shell that has the keys to this. Why did this exactly so that's? Something to keep in mind back up and get a bigger defector. If you're trying to light a group of people, if you are close, watch with that beam a slightest hitting because it is like that small bucket. All right, so let's, take a look. Next thing, next thing that I would dio is if you can't get out of the sunlight at least put their their back to the sun so that the lights not in their face not to the sides you get that need shadow thing what one of the highlights on the nose and oh, this is something to watch out for so ah lot of people know their good side okay? A lot of people don't realize it and so one of the things I asked people to dio is I say when you take a cell phone picture of yourself what do you do? So if they hold their cell phone up and do this this is their good side if they hold it up and do this this is it the good side of the side that they prefer the other thing is part whatever side of the face so like, if I had my hair across the side of face I clearly like this I'd better okay. Um the reason this comes into play is I'll pose a group of people and then they know their good side so we keep going like this and I keep getting the highlight on the nose. So if you notice somebody nonstop is favoring one side, you have to pose them to make up for that if it's direct sunlight and you're trying to bounce off uh you're tryingto bounce light back into their face and they keep picking up the sunlight because they're turning their head and the sun's hitting them over the shoulder rotate them this way and to them when they turn their head it's still not picking up the light anymore I have to do that all the time there were people and its guys and girls okay not just the girl you just move your feet I'll just come like hopefully follow you around yeah yeah almost there were like like a guy clint and shoulders were the shoulders the hips they have nothing to talk about reflection not all reflection is good and this is I'm gonna admit I've debated whether to show everybody what my early work looked like like at some point yes we know we want teo even not railroad tracks bricks black balloons on the beach I mean you name it no but like my light and my focus and it was just bad I'm debating to show people that this president you speak maybe if dick but I'm saying this is this is one of the this is one of the places that I had the biggest problem is not correctly using a reflector so let's take a look um picture on the left there's no reflector being used whatsoever and honestly when I shoot a lot of fashion I'll do that and just turn it back in but this is fashion okay? I'm we'll let you know fashion and correct lighting are not the same thing this is why we balance each other out so well because my clients would shoot me if it didn't look natural incorrect oh it's blurry and grainy and is that they're like that did you screwed up? Yeah yeah and I can be like oh it's high contrast black and white, which was also my favorite solution as a beginning photographer, I was a black and white high contrast the tiger for gora while going into all this reflection stuff though the reflection is just a light source just like the sun just like a soft box just like an umbrella. Anything else? So as she goes through these, you're going to kind of get the sense of where the most of our light sources come from. We've got the sun so it's going to be overhead kind of shining down angle you've got overhead lights, you've got streetlamps, we've got lamps that are always taller than you know most of us anyway, so we walk into a room so that direction of light no matter what the source is is kind of what we're trying to get you guys to look at and it's going to be a common thing throughout all of these yeah, exactly like we will do in the fluorescent light later perfect so take a look again at the first one this key to remember and this is one of most common mistakes I see is even if you're not reflecting, something is so what's reflecting here the grass, the grass because the sun's behind her head so it's bouncing off that grass and that's your natural reflector except for your natural electors green and you're trying to get away from it if they're situations like this, I've actually moved people up to the edge of, like a parking lot concrete, if they want, like the green grass in the background. Um, because sometimes even when you add a reflector you can't overpower if it's that bright of the day. Okay, so the second picture and the third picture or what I did for the longest time picture number two is a reflector held underneath her chin, because in my mind what I'm thinking is I need to bounced light into her face, and for me I was thinking bounce has to be like balance that's what I was thinking so would hold the reflector underneath because also I'd see people do that see professional photographers do that sometime. That's more appropriate for overcast days reflector underneath to papa catch late in the not on a sunny day you absolutely don't want to do that, so that was hold underneath your chin if you look at those pictures by far, that is the picture she looks the heaviest it is the least flattering because you're lighting underneath her jobs, making her job look wider her cheeks look wider, the highlights underneath her nose so all of this looked big and all of this looks small like horror story like flashlight on easter case monster lady that's exact yeah don't ever tell them it's monster lighting you know you might lose them but that's exactly what it is between you and they won't get the joke I used to I used to do that like like say photo jokes and they wouldn't get it be embarrassing photo group set off for the client but uh picture number three is when I held the reflector equal to her face even with her face and that's like flat lights. If anyone's ever shot in the studio, you don't have your light or your modifier right equal with their face it's usually a little bit above right? The reason is is you're trying to carve out their features trying to give dimension so if you look the only picture that I think really works unless I'm trying to go for edgy fashion uh the only picture I think really works is the last one because if you see see how her lips look bigger and you see that shadow underneath her bottom lip it's because the reflector was held above her head casting like down and see how she actually has cheekbones here it's the only picture she extras, cheekbones and the only picture she really hasn't defined jawline those are all things they want fuller lips to find cheekbones to find doll jaw lines so my rule of thumb is when you're reflector is the main source of illumination on your subject that reflector needs to be higher than their face. So if you have a mom helping you and she just wants to hold it, convince mom that it really for that senior portrait to make the daughter look good she's gotta hold that reflector up and they'll do it. I'm just matter for how long's maybe work quickly, and if you look at all these photos, I mean, we're talking about shadows on the face, shadows under the eyes is like a bad thing on we're kind of combat them by bringing in reflectors to do that, but the shadows aren't fat, like you were saying, the shadows are what sculpt you, it's just we have to position our lights that we get pleasing shadows, that's all we're trying to do, we're not trying to obliterate them completely, because then we would take a beautiful three dimensional model with nice cheekbones and flaps flattened out like you see in the third photo there, so our goal is to shape light so that we create pleasing shadows and sculpt people rather than obliterating the shadow altogether so to do that we have to be constantly conscious of the direction of that light and the shadows that creates and here is one more look at that picture so up for me by far the most flattering just to give you an idea of some of the gear and you will see all of this in use um we we both use westcott reflectors I also have a california sent months that's what I was talking about with the nice groupie thing so sometimes if I've got to get that reflector up above the head that's what that reflector is going to tell you significantly more expensive um then say westcott reflector but sometimes this is what I need I need to be able to get that up high and reflect down so those are two of the reflection tools that I use all right, so how about direct sunlight when I simply cannot get in shade or it is high high noon so yeah, I'd be nice to put the sun at their back but it's you know there's no back it's straight down so you gotta have some solutions here so let's take a look problem you have same a direct sunlight there's no state a shade too straight save you from the situation all right, so it's just one through these all right? So this is like this's my fashion photographer response this is shot near high noon, but what you're doing is you're picking what's important and so we're going to talk about meeting later on but this is where you would need to spot meter because if you let your camera make a decision in a situation like this, you cannot predict what it's going to dio I'm guessing that it would think that you want to see more detail in those shadows and it might late enough the pictures and blow the highlights just try to pay something in the middle you're camera generally wants gray and once middle of the road it wants to be like here's an average is you can't get mad at me because I gave you something that's not really bad but not really good so that's why we'll talk about exposure compensation versus manual mode we both try to steer our cameras different ways to the correct exposure, but auto mode just basically wants to wash their hands of it and get you close enough so spot metering basically takes a tiny tiny dot of that scene probably about two percent or up to eight percent depending on how you define it and that's where you tell your camera to meet her for and we'll look at this all more closely later on and then one more fashion emergency this is the fashion approach embrace it, use the direct sunlight and love it, okay, but that doesn't work for most portrait's most people, you put them in direct sunlight and they will hate you forever because most people write and direct sunlight is very, very contrast. He misses, you know, contrast, it's what you squint, but what contrast means is contrast, like if you drag the contrast slider in photo shop, right, highlights get brighter and shadows get darker so that the same thing happens. Direct sunlight, which means highlights will get brighter. Shuttles will get darker, usually for the non model. That means they're wrinkles get darker and their greasy forehead gets greasy and things like that. So you're helping people. You're trying to soften the light, which is why we don't in the studio use a silver reflector dish on someone's face we had used saw fox or beautician trying to soften the light so let's, take a look at the solution that gives you the softest and most glowy light. And so this is the script you want. Talk about the script, jim for a second. Yeah. So the scream jim rocks it some it's, basically a couple aluminum rods, they're hollow that come down a small bag and they have different attachments and stuff you can put on him so it could be a small is a three by three reflector which you can then fold up like any other ones where it could go to like a six by three which is perfect because it's long and tall and narrow like a human's you get a nice reflection for a full body you'll get a six by six which is what we both use the most often which is what you see here they don't even goes because like an eight by eight or you could just keep adding pieces to it and have different sized fabrics I've done shoots where I've had like an eight by eight overhead you act like you know like a giant cloud like we're going to talk about here and then I can just have people walking freely underneath that like they've got a huge cloud sitting over their head so if you look at the scene on the left you see the shadows next to their feet like how dark and contrast c that is you would never think that that was taken in that situation it is going it looks like you took a soft walks outside on location it is beautiful and we did that's that's a six by six foot soft box essentially it's it's about a three quarter stop diffusion which means it's gonna eat up almost a stop of light, but also you have a nice, large soft light source really close to your subject, which is why it cuts down on that contrast. So basically that transition from the highlight to the shadow is very, very, very gradual on her face versus the transition from the highlight to shadow on the people out in the sun is instant that's that hard light that hard contrast. So if you ever if you if you don't have giant strobes and big soft boxes, just get a scrim gym or some kind of diffusion material, the sun is your light source it's your strobe and then that's the front your soft box if you really have no money away bed sheet, if you really want really low thread count chief, sure, yeah, exactly, because I've I've actually was one portrait session I did early on, but I didn't have screamed it wouldn't have anything like that, so I took the bed sheet and teo, um and I, uh, I, uh I taped it to a tree branch and then put stones on the ground, and that was my diffuser for the light coming in from the side because I didn't have anything else, so it definitely works, but you know I'm not always the most versatile so something to watch for this they have stands um you know what it's westcott makes the scream jim they have stands to support this uh we have a little problem in new york city the problem in new york city is the second that you use a stand you need a three hundred dollars three hundred dollars now the second that there's a standard touches the ground you're fined or need to put that's okay people holding this gigantic thing that's right is ridiculous so I'm going talk about a couple other solutions and so we've got yes I've got one more there's another example you see that of top I have a large and this is if I could tell you I hate giving like definitive so I could tell you probably one of the best investments that I recommend anybody that has to shoot in direct sunlight this umbrella I would say this umbrella so let me let me describe why okay first of all you don't need stands so one person can hold it over the scene so that's me well eric shooting holding it's a seven foot shoot through umbrella by westcott so you hold open infuses the scene uh we're not shooting a light through it it is our diffusion material the sun is the sun is the light so that's that's one great thing about it it's collapsible its's easy hold the other thing is if you are like me and sometimes as a photographer, you like to photograph in places you're not supposed to be, like. How many guys have hopped a fence before or ignored a no trespassing sign or way just had to get this location or whatever. If you have a scream, jim and the cops come, you gotta break it down and, like, put it away. If you have one of these, you close it and run like you're out of there, okay, so expect this, like just meeting you on the street, you wouldn't you would have no idea this is your approach to it, sometimes anything for the image, right? It doesn't matter, although is really funny, because I just so I don't have an assistant who I was shooting some place last week that I wasn't supposed to be and cross him and he, like, looked at crossing over the fence he's like I can't because he had gotten a citation for trespassing like recently, so it doesn't wanna mess with it. You can't get in trouble, but with photographers who cares about yeah, and by the way, guys permits are a lot cheaper than bail money. A lot of I've got a friend on one of our bodies in new york was assisting on a shoot. And it was by like a wooded area just outside of new york, but I guess it was too close to one of the water reservoir feeds or something like that. So they hop defense to go scout this look kishan and the cops showed up. I guess they had monitors or something somewhere. So now he's on a terrorist watch list or something like that because he was in like, a contributing water supply thing to new york city. So we're not recommending that you go out and do this, but if you've got a pack, your gear and run from the cops and robbers are a lot easier to do, it kind of meant that cheek just know if you are looking to get permits, you need to have insurance to cover you on location and it's really inexpensive and you can use you get is an add on to our insurance that's one of the things that they require any place that you go, you want a permit, they want to see a proof of insurance just basically one liability than you give him a piece of paper, a certificate of insurance they keep it on file you photograph are you contact the city for us a lot of times in the city or it might be the county if you want to shoot like a park or anything like that so just check out their web sites, they have easy forms to fill out and then it's a painless process. Most places it's free contact your local film commission or your city services, and they'll be able to direct you to the right route in new york it's expensive because of how many productions, but in florida, I was able to get free permits constantly. So and then it's nice because the park ranger knows you're coming and he might help you put the gear in a four by four and drive your butt to the beach rather than having you haul of the year down there. And sometimes I worry about you, and they try to prevent people from bothering you like I've had that were really nice. They want to watch, and they're, like, shoot people office, right? Yeah. So if you give him a heads up a lot of times, you find people really helpful and it's a spectacle. Photography is cool. This is why we all do it. So, like park rangers, like, I'd have anything to do today, you know, I'm gonna hang out, you know, police, you're set for you for free. So that's cool speaking of I shot this in golden gate park, um, back behind where the museums are and it did have a permit for that, and ranger did help us all day, so that the perfect example? Um oh, and then eric was adding the shoot through umbrella is one of the few things in all of photography that costs under one hundred dollars, is the cost it's like ninety nine bucks like that? So that's not a stocking stuffer like it's seven feet, but I mean it's it's in the price point where it could be like a gift like that? Yeah, yeah, it's definitely something I recommend and to a couple of examples. So this is shot at high noon. I'm shooting a fashion editorial and how it works is if I have, like, twelve looks to shoot during the day, I can't stop at high noon, I have to shoot. And so if the theme of the shoe is she standing in the middle of the field at high noon, I'm still shooting the mill, the field. So this is a big diffuser above her head, and we start her here after me. Um, and so there's the scrim, jim, with the stand just didn't get idea. We don't think we have stands to demo, I don't know, but they'll probably put stands for us, yeah, well, have stands of stuff and I mean, I've made some brackets are a little more lighter weight and stuff to or you can use a clamps or like we've shown you assistant so it's really versatile and this stuff is lightweight it's aircraft aluminum or something like that in a sheet so it's it's not gonna you know, it's not going to have it and then this is what that looks like in case you wanted to know um seriously one of definitely a thing I would recommend it's beautiful too when you put a light through it I mean, but it just has so many uses though, and a lot of time a running gun diffusion like that is awesome, like I put it on the end of a mono pod sometimes or a paint pole or lightweight light stand within umbrella bracket and I just have my assistant boom it up over somebody so I'll have a light shoot a lot of active stuff, so my subjects are walking around and I'll just have him following around with a stick with a giant umbrella over it so that cloud just follows wherever we go so it's kind of nice another way to go about this and this is something that you'll see is the fusion and adding reflector so this is what you have to remember, okay here's their again awful light right poor girl she's definitely for sure one of the happiest people you'll ever meet ever think of having a crazy awesome okay, so horrible, horrible, horrible lie on her face? Adding a diffuser above her head does not change the direction it just softens it. So just like he said about that grady in between from shadow to highlight, it just softens the radiant there's kind of a couple things were gonna be touching on the direction of light is one thing the quality of the light is the other, so that our difference between hard and soft you'll hear us say that a lot basically the transition from that highlight to the shadow is that quality, that softness or the hardness, if it's a very quick fall off, and then we have intensity will be the third thing and that's just the brightness of the light. So when we're going over this, I mean, those are just three vocab words to really kind of nailed down, so we're on the same page going forward direction didn't change intensity went down a little bit quality of the light changed immensely, so we covered one of the bases here. And so, you know, the diffuser that we have in this scene is california sun bounds it's called a son swatter, and yeah, it is cool and what it is it's on a pole and has a lever system so that you can build into it, get out over a scene which might be useful if you have a group of people and you're trying to boom it out and you don't have stands and one person can hold it. Uh, it is definitely more expensive, but you're paying for the capabilities and the convenience that it gives you. And so you could do a diffuser and then add a reflector to kick light back in. In this example, it's flattened out her face, so if you wanted to have some shape to her face still you would feather the reflectors instead of instead of trying to catch all that light and bouncing it back into her face, you'd angle it away and it would just kick in a little bit instead of totally flattening everything out. And so here's an example. Where have done that? Um, this was on a sunny day it's diffuser overhead and a reflector underneath her chin. So I have it's not completely flattening everything else. It's, nice and smooth. And this. I love this stuff. You wanna talk about this? So this was last week, so I was shooting some clothing boutique stuff, uh, in l a and hollywood beverly hills. And the weather is awesome that's why I have a little bit of like a sunburn tan thing going on like it is's good as they say if you've never been to california but it's really, really, really bright and there was like no clouds the entire week I was there so that scream jam with the diffusion material was flying above pretty much every single shoot I did outdoors for an entire week and the crew's pretty cool out there this was after a long day along third day or something like that, so we kind of relax on our uniform point but you can see it overhead diffusing the light, but again we don't change the direction just the quality, so if you look really closely on here you see what she's got raccoon eyes you see how there's a highlight on her nose all that kind of stuff, so we softened it down so it's easier to deal with were there when that dynamic range in the photo but the girl over here on the right is holding a reflector and that's giving us that direction of light so we're adding in that punch of light on her face, giving us the catch light in the eyes and giving us that direction too then you know even this out so we don't have the weird recognize here in the big spot on the nose on we're getting the rest of her body has the nice, soft quality of light that was coming down from above. What's nice about using diffusion is if you just kind of blocked her off and put her in the shade, she wouldn't look like she's in sunny california, which is not using my solution. I stick her in the shade, that's that's not what they wanted their base cos they want son and that's. Why, if you look at her hair, she still has the direction of light still looks like a bright, sunny day, but it's not direct sunlight, so what he'll do is he kind of compresses the scene the highlights instead of blocking it off and then builds back in. And so it is definitely is the solution you hatchling that that's. My goal in the most of my work is you have really bright highlights, you said earlier, so I mean you're going over expose your sky or you've really dark shadows where you're not gonna be able to see anything. So my job is to keep the feeling of the environment, to keep the location, to get the sunny california, but so that our camera can see it so our hair's not blown out in our faces and in shadow, so it's it's. A dance I mean, it's, your definitely trying to compress your highlights in your low lights. But keep the quality and the overall feel of it. So just these simple direction of light and some reflectors. And if users is like how you make a living it's incredible. So