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Lesson 19 of 33

Outdoor Shoot: Natural Light

Susan Stripling

Creative Wedding Photography

Susan Stripling

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Lesson Info

19. Outdoor Shoot: Natural Light

Lesson Info

Outdoor Shoot: Natural Light

I'm gonna leave my transmitter on top of the camera it's not going to do anything. The only reason I'm not taking it off is because if I take it off I can guarantee you that I will lose it between now and our reception I'm going to go to my eyes a sensitivity settings and turn them back on turning on auto is a sensitivity control so that I can use auto I s o I'm telling it that the lowest I wanted to go is low one on my nikon the highest I wanted to go is ten thousand, which is never going to happen out here no matter how hard I try and my mentor minimum shutter speed needs to be a four hundred of a second that means that if my camera goes below four hundredth of a second it's going to jump me up to my next esso and as I have mentioned yesterday and I'll mention it again today the reason why I use auto eso is because it works I don't use auto s o because I can't set my own s o or because I don't trust my own instinct it's because that I found that on these nikon cameras it's nearly fla...

wless and there's absolutely no reason with which I can't trust it I'm going to change my white balance over to cloudy again I've mentioned on the nikon cameras when I am outside if I'm using window light from a window if I'm in the shade outside and even if I'm in the sun outside I will generally set my white balance on cloudy because it will allow me to kind of warm the images up just a little bit if you are a cannon shooter I've heard several cannon shooter say that cloudy is very magenta are very red so that might not be a setting that you would really want to explore with your cannon as much you would have to experiment with that to find your own happy place so if I can get let's start off with just our bride can I borrow her back? Hi, can I borrow you again? Um he could take a break you can come on out by yourself I'm being much nicer than I usually would to my clients on the wedding day by letting them sit in inside in between but now I'm going to make her suffer so you're gonna come over this way and I'm actually gonna photograph you by yourself for a bit so if you don't mind just stand right here for just a second so I could talk about you in a standard photograph when I am photographing the bride or the groom or the bride and the groom outside in a scenario like this I have it set up exactly how I wanted you khun see that the sun even though it's almost directly overhead is coming a little bit from that direction so it's coming from over the building over there you can also see this even when you just look at her with your naked eye you can see the light burning through her veil correct you can also see that the light is very, very very easy to see because she's against a dark background and I want to show you again an example of this I'm gonna pull out this reflector just to show you that it's like opening a can of biscuits when it pops open and it's really terrifying I feel the exact same way about opening this, so if you keep looking this way, see how you can see the light burning through her veil really well when you put this up behind her, you can't see it is strongly I mean partly because yeah, I'm blocking some of the light, but when you've got quite on white that's nowhere near is dramatic as white on black or white on dark, so when they mentioned that we wanted to come out here, you know this was the courtyard that might be my option and I came outside and took a look at it the other day I realized you know what? I can actually really make this work for me because the background over there is really nice and dark so what I'm going to dio just nice and simple can you just bring your veil around your shoulders and in turn your body kind of towards the students good and just hang out there and bring your hands kind of even more in front of you like not quite up here bring him nice and down and a lot of times and she's doing exactly what all clients will do which is choking up too high on the veil if you grab it further down it gives you more room toe like folded and hold it in perfect okay, can I borrow you again now? She hopped up on one would think she might be going for my flash she's not going for my flash she's going for my reflector and she's not looking for my reflector for her she's going for my reflector for me somehow have you stand kind of over here and when I crouch down you're gonna lift it up and you see the shadow that it casts the shadow needs to be on top of my limbs, but before we do that, I'm going to tell you why we're doing that. Now you can see just with your naked eye that she is number one absolutely beautiful and number two and absolutely beautiful lighting however, when I turn my face to look at her, I have to do like this and the reason why I have to do like this is because when my hand isn't over my I the sun is coming down and hitting me directly in the eyes I need to shield my eyes from the sun so that I can look at her clearly now why would you even think that I could pick up my camera and shoot this without doing the same thing to my lens? So what? I'm going to dio as I'm going to come down here because this is one person alone I'm gonna shoot her an f three point five pull my tether to have a little extra room I'm going to come down here and tell you when you've got it can you move it all the way off? Actually just take it away and I'm gonna shoot it no, I'm not put it back up again so what I'm gonna do is I'm going to get a good exposure on her I'm going to shoot it with absolutely no exposure compensation we're gonna take a look at what that looks like this feels really good I must let you stand there with that all the time, okay? With no exposure compensation that look okay, the camera is trying to figure out what the exposure reading should be so it's trying to make it nice and even is trying to give you your good history ram but I realized that when I shoot like that her entire veil is totally and completely blown out and the highlights in her face and here are a little gone as well so let's do the exact same thing and just you know kind of close your eyes and drop your chin down just a little bit beautiful sze and I am going to under exposed by about three quarters of a stop which just means to roll my exposure compensation down and I'm going to shoot the exact same thing let the wind come in and pick it up that's beautiful and let's see what a difference that makes when the image comes up you can tell there we go it helps out just a little bit and I could even roll it down a little bit more if I felt that that wasn't entirely correctly exposed the keys to this to reiterate my client is out there she is directly in the middle between me and the sun the sun is right up there and I am staring straight into it the light is hitting her on the side of her body we have a dark background behind her which is making her stand off of the background I have my seventy two two hundred millimeter lynn's at two hundred millimeters which is compressing her off of the background now we have a pretty lovely photograph now what happens if she turns to face towards me just exactly like how you were kind of turned away and then just turn your upper body back just hands like this beautiful well now we've got a problem because even though she's exactly where I want her to be with the light and the background and me now her face is in shadow so what I'm going to do in an instance like that if I absolutely have to have them looking at me we're gonna come over here with the reflector you can close your eyes it's okay and we're gonna end himto lighten up her face so keep your eyes closed we're gonna lighten up your face and I'm gonna tell you when to open them because it's going to be exactly like looking into the nuclear son you're just going to pop them open and then pop them closed again so I'm going to get nice and close can you bring the reflector down a little there together we go to get a little closer to her keep her eyes closed your good time to get exposure reading off of her before you open your eyes bring your chin down a little bit and then on the count of three just open your eyes and look right over me so keep them closed one two three there she goes you can close it again you can put that down I don't want our bride to go completely blind so there you go if you're stuck outside at one o'clock and you absolutely must have your client's facing you the reflector that you've also used to shade yourself you khun usedto lighten her up I did get a little light in my lens so if I really really, really wanted to be super super technical, I could always get a stand for my reflector and have one shielding me and then have my assistant holding one on her or I could be in shade if I could find some out here I could be in the shade of a tree I could be there's a shrub over here I could kind of hide myself behind it, but just for the sake of showing you guys what we could do this is a little bit under exposed I'd like to maybe pop it up a little bit more and if I were at home I'd be using my reflector, which has a gold side and I would have shown the gold light on her so before we bring out a groom you could just have a seat you're good, you might have to hold that over me again in a little bit it actually felt really fantastic any questions from you guys so far before we move on? Yes ma'am um so same principle as faras where you're meeting when she was facing this way on the light side yes okay, absolutely so what we're going to dio is we're just gonna keep working off of the same principle that we were working on before, and I'm going to show it to you in a couple of different ways. First things first, uh, which way is your hair part's over here just face each other, right? Like this and just hold hands or, you know, get close together almost like you're dancing, I'm gonna give this to you toehold like, just put it down, all right, good. So what's going on here because I am putting the sun behind them and because I'm not using any type of a reflector, I want to have them facing each other, so the light is hitting them exactly the way that I wanted. Teo, can you get a little closer together? You just got married. There we go on, can you take like I'm actually gonna move you you're gonna do exactly what you're doing just on the other side of that like concrete path like where you were when we were doing the formal just on the other side of that and I'm gonna shoot into them over there good, so keep going, keep going good and just face like that good come closer to the concrete closer closer there's the sun there you going and then one big step back that way towards the street yes, and just get to know each other a little bit, which is not something you normally say on a wedding day, so as you can see it's the exact same thing I was doing when I was working with the bride alone, the sun is over there, as you can see by the fact that I am nearly blind over here, I have chosen to juxtapose them against a very dark background, which will help the light really stand out once it hits their bodies. I've got them looking at each other so the light is right here filling in right on this part of their face and usually I tell my clients you know, you're in exactly the right spot when you feel the sun on one side of your face, but you're not blind, so what I'm going to dio I was on three point five when I was photographing her alone I'm gonna go to f four just so that I make sure that I have both of them and focus I'm gonna come over here excuse me and crouch down I'm a little shaded, but will you still throw it up over me anyhow she's gonna come in and shade my lens? I can already look at them better just with my naked eye this way I'm gonna take a look at them I'm gonna shoot with the exact same settings that I've been using and we're going to see what we've got they're so cute let's see if I was anywhere near remotely correct and I wass now listen this shot thank you very much this shot is not goingto look like this at six o'clock in the afternoon this shot is not going to look like this at eight o'clock at night as the sun keeps coming down lower and lower in the sky it's going to wrap around their bodies mohr so you can see especially on the tops of their heads the sun is hitting directly on the top of their head it's not so much getting their chin not so much getting their wraps around of their arms because it's too high in the sky and the shadows are too short I still think this is lovely I still think this is dramatic this still makes me extraordinarily happy so this is exactly how I would start in the courtyard were I outside after family formals? If this were a wedding and I were knocking these things out as fast as humanly possible I would start out with that nice safe shot under the tree of the two of them holding each other and smiling directly at the camera then I would have moved on to shooting the two of them like this then I would shoot them in a different scenario in a different scenario, and I would finish up with him alone and her alone again with the same lighting principles. We're gonna try something a little different, bring you guys out over here, not quite jammed oppa's much against that background we're gonna put you kind of like right here. So what? You're gonna dio you come right here to kind of stand, and I have absolutely no problem when it comes to posing, jumping in and if I consent to my clients are comfortable with it touching them. If I were a male photographer, I would probably never put my hands on a bride ever. I don't want to make them uncomfortable, and if I can consent, if I can sense that she's kind of reserved and wood, I feel kind of weird about me reaching in and like moving her around, I'm not going to do that. Ah lot of times I'll grab my poor long suffering, sorry, guys assistant and make her help me show them the pose that I want to to dio um, but we're not gonna do that today. So what? You're gonna dio move this dress out of the way, you're gonna stand just like that, and then you're gonna come right up behind her you put your arms like around her waist and then you're both gonna kind of lean out so you can look at each other like this it's gonna feel a little like you're about to do like a musical number like you're about to start singing and dancing when you put your arms around it just really kind of get your arms around exactly and a lot of times guys don't know they'll put their arms over her arms and it looks like he's gonna give her the heimlich maneuver which is really unromantic so then lean out so you can look at him there we get so cute. Okay, good. Where did I put it? Here we go so nice and easy and I tell them like, listen, do you feel ridiculous? Like a little bit just go with it like if you feel completely and totally goofy and you wanna laugh laugh like it's totally fine I don't mind and clients get really stiff because they think that they need to be acting a certain way during these portrait but they don't like not at all. All right? So I'm gonna come down here, you know what? I might not come down here and I'm gonna stay up here I'm staying up here can you still hit me there you have good same thing, same principle, same light like so yeah, I might move a little bit there. See? There we go. Now we're finding it funny, trying to get exactly what I want to be. Okay. Find each other like family guy. Funny, like, really funny. There we go. All right, let's, take a look at what we've got here, let's. See if our exposure is good, our exposure is really good. Now, a lot of you guys could take a break for just a second and talk for a bit. I don't want your makeup to like streak off of you so you can sit down in the in the faux shade a little bit now, a lot of maybe more traditional photographers are a little bit more old. School photographers might take a look at something like this and say, oh, well, she's got a lot of problems here. Like the veils totally blown out in the backgrounds too dark and know you what you really need is a reflector to fill in their faces and so on and so forth. Yes, I understand that her veil is blown out. Yes, I understand it. You know, if you look on her shoulder, the light's hitting it kind of hard, but I like this, I'm making these decisions to blow out the veil. To allow a little splotchy nous on her chest because I like the dramatic nature of the lighting, not because I don't know what I'm doing and there's a massive difference between the two. So, yes, I would never enter this into a print competition because it's one o'clock in the afternoon and it is incredibly hard to be shooting out here like this, and yeah, it does, you know, have a couple of flaws, but for going outside at one o'clock with the bride and groom and making something dramatic and making something beautiful. It's not half bad, it's actually a little bit better than half bad and to talk again about composition of images, even when working just with portrait's composition doesn't necessarily mean you're trying to tell a huge story of an emotional moment. Composition is still important when you're working with ah portrait, we got a little rule of thirds going on here. I've pushed them all the way over to the side of the frame with the compression. I've drawn them off of the background with the bright lighting that's on them by the time I've exposed for them, my dark background has gotten even darker, but so they're not in a complete pit of darkness because while I love a dark background that that's not the end all be all of everything I need to give it something a little bit more I allowed these trees on the left side to peek into the frame so that it gives it a little sense of time and place. It also gives you a little foreground and a little curving line to lead right into the bride and groom and I think it's lovely any questions so far before we kind of keep moving on a little bit? Wei have a couple quick questions if you want, please absolutely let's see no element to wants to know. How do you shoot people in a situation like this? If they're really sensitive to light and always squinting and having a rough time and I can completely understand that totally but I'm not having them look into the light, the light is behind them, right? So, you know, while I'm squinting into the light and I'm totally miserable, the bride and groom have had their backs to the light, and if they're very, very, very sensitive to the light, I'm not going to force them into something like this, I'll do it if they're truly miserable, we're going to go into the shade and we'll finish it there it's not my ideal, but I would rather sort of sacrifice the shot a little bit for the comfort of the client uh, betty jean wants to know if you get to shoot, uh, choose the time of day for the shoot. What? I will be ideal what's your what's your perfect moment. Yeah, all the time never like ever like, ever, ever, ever! Sometimes I'll get a client who's very understanding about what goes into making a good photograph and they'll ask me like we're thinking about a first look, but we're not entirely sure like if we do a first look, it'll be at one o'clock, but if we wait and we do pictures afterwards, it'll be it like six o'clock and I'll say, you know what? The light afterwards would be really tremendous and usually their responses. You know, I didn't even think of that and a lot of times it's not because they're being difficult, they just they don't know any better. They don't know that one o'clock is like an inferno of blazing light outside. Sometimes I get a little input here and there, but if I were outside with the two of them at one o'clock in the afternoon, I'm still able to make some beautiful things for them, but I would also like to be able to make other things for them so even if they want to go straight to cocktail hour after the ceremony, I'll ask if I could borrow them for a few minutes at the end of cocktail hour to make a fume or images of the two of them I'll continue using the light in exactly the same way it will just be a lot gentler on a lot more forgiving later in the day I won't need to be shaded from it quite as much I'll be able to shoot a little bit more directly into it because it won't be so harsh so if we do all of this I'll just say hey guys you know when they pull you at the end of cocktail hour to start lining you up for the reception can I have them pull you five minutes earlier so that I could borrow you for a minute if it's just truly like decimating ly bad like if they want to be on the beach at noon I will do everything I can to talk them out of it I will try to talk them out of their family formals at noon on the beach because I'm being set up to fail you know no matter how good I am there still scenarios that are practically unsuitable but if they are adamant about it I'll tell them one more time guys listen I'm not gonna be able to get my best results for you here but if it's really important to you okay we'll do it that's fine and if it involves flash on camera blasting straight at them and it's the only thing that I can dio again, as I said before, they'll remember more how difficult I wass if I give them a kind of average family formal, they'll still like me because I gave them what they wanted rather than pushing them and making them change their schedule to something they don't want. Maybe the pictures are better, but now they're gonna be mad at me. Sure, but you've said expectations so it's doable? Absolutely, it is as far as managing expectations, it's very important to be able to tell them if I'm being set up into a scenario where I'm not going to be able to deliver what I think they want other questions from michelle, I asked you for life somebody else might have. Same question. Yeah, please, in this kind of light mixed race couple, you have a very fair person in a very dark person. Which one do you meet her for? Well, first, I cry because that's really hard. Um, probably I would, actually, and I actually gave this some thought since lunch. I would probably actually meet her for the darker skin and then meter for the lighter skin and then go somewhere in between because if I have to if I have to tweak it a little bit later, if I have to bring one down and one up I'd rather be is close to the middle is I possibly can instead of focusing on like, say, the gentlemen's dark skin and blowing out his bride our photo you know, focusing on the bride and blowing out the gentleman I would go kind of mid range and then we would know that later in post we're going to fix a little bit if I'm feeling especially, you know, adventurous or I have a lot of time I could always force the flash though it fell far harder on one side or the other or angle the reflector so maybe it's not hitting her but it's hitting him if he has the darker skin but mostly it's just incredibly difficult to dio if you have extra time to do some more creative stuff like safe or something you wear in this particular place will you kill me? I know, I know, I know, but you try shooting through some of this glass at this time of day or does it matter to you in part I mean listen let's be completely honest it's rough out here like this is the time that I wanted to come outside and looking at this scenario no there's really not a whole lot that like going inside and shooting out we'll do toe, like, make the photograph look better, and again, I'm only going to do something like that if it's going to serve, um enhancing the photograph, however, that doesn't mean that I couldn't, you know, do something a little different. I'm not doing any sort of extravagant or kind of over the top posing with people. I find that once I started doing a lot of posing, I start kind of losing people, and I know that there's a huge kind of movement and wedding photography right now of, like, fashion photography, where the bride and groom don't really look like they like each other are they kind of look miserable, and I don't know if it's just maybe I'm like a maverick or something. I want my client to look happy and I want them to look like themselves, so I'm not gonna have like them holding each other and like looking dramatically off into the distance like there really ticked I don't know, I just don't think that's very that's, not very glamorous. Okay, so actually let's have you turned the other way face kind of face into the street there we go and then twist back towards me just a hair good, bring the veil over both sides you kind of gravity a at the end, good and then just look sort of this like kind of trying to look at the students backs like through the trees good that's lovely even more away from me good you want to come in and hit me with a little I guess you can come over on the her side of me maybe keep going keep going a little more yet yeah good okay, so take a big step that way like you're walking towards the street and stop good and then just sort of put your hands together in front of you and look down at your hands kind of nice and quiet beautiful if I'm going to like shoot through our around something like this it's gonna be kind of to go through the trees like so hold on and we'll take a look at what this looks like over here and you can see that I've made a mistake not in the pot's, not in the where I've got the bride but in how I've exposed for her here and the direction that I faced her in the sun is coming more from the other side of where she's standing so she technically as the back of her head towards it and I haven't exposed correctly for her face I've underexposed so we're gonna tweak the scene so I can show you how it looks better exact same thing just turn your body to face the other way keep going keep going there we g o and bring your head back to me just a hair not quite as much like keep going keep going keep going away from me and stop and just drop your chin down and look at your hands again just kind of like a sweet quiet moment then I'm gonna fix my exposure and then I'm gonna shoot hang on I shot before I was ready shoot I got very, very, very excited and just shot so may fix that can you take one big step back that way thank you and then just keep doing exactly what you're doing that's beautiful good, good, good, good good. If I am going to shoot through something like out here I'm going to use what I've got in front of me which is the trees and I'm going to use the trees to kind of bring you back around in to the subject and you can see that when I turned her around and I faced her the other way now the light on her face is better I adjusted my exposure to bring it up a little bit if this bothers you if the look of all of the blown veil and blown to us you can have a seat thank you so much the blown veil and blown dress bother you you have several different options one don't shoot it that way you don't have to shoot it that way this is just how I handle it number two bring her back outside and do this again at a different time of day if you can see how hard the light is hitting the front of her dress when the sun is lower in the sky it's not going to hit her anywhere near is hard it will be much more forgiving and much easier to work with and create that wrap around light which is really what I'm looking for but again I want to reiterate for those that might be joining it is one thirty outside outside this is horrible like this is the worst this is the kind of situation that if you find yourself and you're going to try to get out of before the wedding actually happens but it happens we get stuck out here and what we're shooting here for me is not just surviving in the situation but we're making some really lovely images but back to the fact that if the blown out aspects of the image bother you you can not shoot it like this shoot it at another time of day you could use your reflector or your flash to fill in her face which will allow you to darken down the rest of the body or you could move somewhere and try something different I think this is lovely you could also in post if you're feeling very inclined and you're more of the fix it after the fact type which I don't really recommend you be, but if you shoot it and you look at it later and you're like, oh wow, that's even more blown than I thought you can use your brushes and light room to pull back some of your highlights and if you want to see these images edited, I know we've mentioned it several times already, but for those of you that are just joining us on sunday, I'll be back here with sidecar post, which is the post production team that handles the bulk of all of my raw processing and they'll show you what they would do if I handed often image to them like this and said, I need help editing this I edit my own things for the block myself, but the bulk of everything that I d'oh all of my gallery's, it's all their artistry are you spot metering on the skin if you're looking for a good place to start trying to do something like that that's not a bad idea spot murdering on the skin there's also no shame in old school light meter holding it right up next to their faces you know, not a lot of people use them anymore I don't understand why they're fantastic I used to use one but after thirteen years, years of experience, my light meter is up here and that's my goal and that's what I'm trying to get everybody to be able to dio, which is to know their cameras so well inside and out and to know they're lighting scenarios inside and out so well that they don't even have to think about it, that when I'm teaching you guys, I'm actually having toe think, okay, I need to tell them that I just under exposed by a stop because I just did it without even realizing that I was doing it, and we have another question from patty in north carolina. What about working with people with glasses? Do you try and keep one of them in the shavar is really tough? I'm just much I don't change the way I'm doing things. I just try to be much more conscientious of how the light is hitting the glasses sometimes it's a matter of just adjusting them down on the face or moving the maybe a bit more down on the nose are making sure that it's not excuse me, not directly hitting into the glasses, but it's it's the same sort of operating manual.

Class Description

Join award-winning wedding photographer Susan Stripling for a 3-day journey through the world of artistic, compelling, and financially successful creative wedding photography.

Throughout this course, you’ll explore lighting, posing, capturing detail, and much more. Susan will simplify the potentially daunting process of selecting the right equipment for every wedding’s needs. You’ll learn about transforming poorly-lit or visually uninteresting wedding settings into picturesque images.

Susan will also guide you through the workflow she uses, and explain the composition principles that result in dynamic images. You’ll explore concrete, on-the-fly troubleshooting strategies for unexpected wedding events.

By the end of this course, you’ll have the tools you need to think on your feet while photographing every phase of a wedding, with jaw-dropping results.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Gear List.pdf

Susan Stripling Presentation Slides

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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Outstanding, one of the best courses on Creative Live. Wow! The delivery is sharp, on point, and focused. I've learned tons. There are so many gems I've watched this video many times and have now purchased more videos from Susan Stripling. Outstanding presenter. My photography has already improved greatly by implementing some of the techniques shown.

a Creativelive Student

The content of the course was perfectly taught at a "real" level. Susan's work clearly, speaks for itself, but her willingness to be so generous with her knowledge is fantastic. She has become an instant favorite of mine and her style is truly special and unique. The course was reasonably priced and I am beyond thrilled that I have taken the time to learn from one of the best in the industry. INCREDIBLE course in every way!!


I Loved this course. I would definitely take another course by Susan Stripling. Her images are beautiful. She has the posing, timing, lighting, mood, etc. all down perfectly and makes amazing, beautiful pictures. She is an excellent communicator as a teacher too.