Skip to main content

Natural Light with Groups and Overcast Light

Lesson 15 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

Natural Light with Groups and Overcast Light

Lesson 15 from: Location Lighting 101

Lindsay Adler

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

15. Natural Light with Groups and Overcast Light


Class Trailer

Day 1


Class Introduction


Principles of Light


Speedlights vs Strobes


Compressing the Scene


Location Lenses and Lenshoods


Metering Modes and Back Button Focus


Natural Light Reflectors


Lesson Info

Natural Light with Groups and Overcast Light

we're going to talk about groups with natural light all right and so we're gonna watch the video on that let's take a minute to talk about photographing groups on location and there are several considerations that I figured out the hard way all right first of all if you're shooting on location like in this park they're definitely a lot of distracting elements in the background if we turn around we've got uh really bright colored chairs in the background and rocks and there's a sign and so I know that I want to be shooting at a really wide aperture because they want to try to get rid of it okay the problem is when you're photographing groups if you're shooting at say one point eight seemingly step ahead a little bit okay if I were shooting at one point eight from say here stephen rebellion focus and they would be out of focus because we're on different planes if I focus on him at one point it's so narrow that they're already out of focus so there's a couple things you could do to fix th...

is first of all from wherever you're shooting whatever angle you're shooting make sure that all of your subjects basically are lined up in relation to your film plane so what I mean by that is if I come over to this side and I'm shooting from over here I need to move them off you guys gonna screwed up so they're all on anne even level plain to my film or to my sensor and if I come over to the centre ran flattened out so something like that you don't really want that much death if you're trying to shoot at a really wide aperture so keep that in mind another thing that will make a difference is if you use a slightly longer lens that will help you a little bit with that narrowed up field because it'll compress them so they seem they appear closer together maybe a seventy two hundred a little further back shooting at for oh might be a good situation for this scene okay but that's not about light and this is a location lighting course so let talk about lighting them all right right now we talked about before the dynamic range of the scene or having you know really wide exposure range so right now the highlights on their hair which are lovely um are very very bright and their faces of course are very dark so I have a choice I can either exposed for their faces which that's probably the most important what's going to happen is the background and their hair is going to go way over exposed so to compress the exposure range of the scene I need to add light to their faces and in this instance I'm not going to be a speed light or stroke photographer I am going to work with natural light and I'm going to use a reflector okay well I run into a few challenges when I do that I need to use the reflector to bounce light into their face but right now I have only this reflector perhaps so if I go ahead and I try to light them notice how we have a really bright highlight in the center and then it kind of feathers off on the signs I can't really evenly illuminate all of them so here we go I'm going to start on the right hand side can we try to move it over there is just one specific hot spot I can't evenly like everyone if I for some reason have to capture the light maybe the angle that it's coming in I need to go far off to the side the problem is going to be exaggerated even more if I'm trying to evenly illuminate them I need two more less beef straight onto them as much as possible because otherwise I'm gonna have intense side lighting and the person closest to my reflector will be brightly lit and that it will fade off really fart so left inside of the frame in this instance so you want to do is you want to try to be flat as possible and then okay I've got this reflector right now it's the bucket of water I'm storing the bucket of water and right now it's basically just hitting her it's a small bucket of water a small reflector close and it's only gonna hit one person and they get splashed with a little bit of light so what I can do is I can take that same bucket of water and back up and then by the time I throw it to them that light that water will spread out and let's see if I can get a little bit more reflections on all of them okay getting a little more even illumination but as you can probably tell it's really really dim it's not going to be bright enough to light them all so the next thing I can do is grab a bigger reflector and be a little bit further back and because I have to be further back but it's spread out evenly and it also kind of in the front I'm gonna want silver white is not gonna be far than off to kick and light them all so I'm in fact going to grab a silver and gold nix because it's later in the day so maybe I want a little bit of that warmth this would be really great maybe it's an engagement session or something that's what's have that warm glow to it all right so this is a little bit bigger reflector I should be able to get back a little bit further okay and so noticed I'm definitely getting a lot more even illumination at the edges it is fading off but it's a lot more even unfortunately there's only three of them let's say that I had four five six people that I had to like this wouldn't cut it because even where I was standing there it was even getting dark on the edges so what I'm going to do is I'm gonna grab my big reflector kick in as much light as possible pull it back so I get even spread and have a larger surface to do so yourself I've got this reflector and I get much more even illumination on all of them and what's nice is with this because it has a frame if I need to raise it up toe like them I can get more of an upward angle instead of the slightly lower angle of light so again this is the four by six silver I'm using the silver so I can back up and kick light towards them uh and then get more even elimination I could back up a little bit so I'm not in my frame and right now it's a silver side towards you guys the white side affords them if I move over you can see that the light does actually reflect off using white and it is much softer notice that it's cooler than that warm sunlight coming from behind but unfortunately I've got to be pretty close and because I have to be so close I need to be far off to the left otherwise I'm gonna be right in front of my frame right well because it for after the left stevens going to get the most illumination it's going to start to fade that iris over there's going to be in shape so it's kind of a trade off like right here it's a little bit better you'd be working with your camera to try to get this reflector out of the scene but of course if I flip it over I can even turn it this way if I want and I can capture even elimination on all three of them like this course this requires an assistant what when photographing groups I recommend anyway all right so first you wanna start with this one okay can you pretend you like each other like like yeah there you go ah this looks like a cute family photo I don't know what family this would be but it's pretty good and everybody had straight onto me look right here good uh views and feather it off a little from feather it just a little good and great there stephen would like it all cozy good that looks great okay with the white first oh that's beautiful the way it looks so much better looks great and move closer to dave in front good uh no more around this way come back this way good right there alright guys beautiful perfect love it okay now let's compare what it with a small reflector right dave he's just you silly all right now try to light them with this all right challenge accepted uh yeah all right I get really close and try it ok and I've tried a feather it off it's it's not so crazy all right and now back up and give it some nice even spread nice and come around front if you can okay good and a little more good a little more light a little more light good and lastly I'm gonna have you go far off to the side and show how if if you've got to be off to the side it's gonna light them unevenly alright perfect lovely when I was photographing them I made sure that I checked again my background so I changed my angle so I didn't have these bright highlights in the background got a little bit lower so I could have the nice light filtering through the leaves on the trees so just to summarize what I would do when photographing and group portrait you want to get everybody on the same plane so all kind of lined up in relationship to your film plane you want to use a larger reflector and you want to back it up you also want to try to stay a little bit flattered to the camera further to the side creates more directional light a smaller reflector is going to create a really bright hot spots and you won't be able to cover the whole frame so larger reflector back it up and try to keep it a little more centered right slows or my tips for photographing groups okay so I did want to show you the images that didn't work in case they look familiar to you um or the ones that didn't quite work to me small reflector even when you feather it somebody's gonna have a hot spot somebody is going to be brighter than the rest so small reflectors don't work unless you back them up and when you back a month they get weaker over here selector is a little bit off to the sign so what happens is he's got one side of his face and shadow and she's got this kind of rembrandt harsh light and then she's seemly let's when you get uneven light if someone's too far off to the side so that's why the shots that I liked the best this is the one that I decided I like this one with a white reflector kind of centered the bigger one up overhead so the center like makes it even across the group overhead gives you that nice shape that we said we liked and the fact that it's biggers he can back up spread it out evenly on dwight really is flattering for portrait ce so that is a direction that I would go s so what kind of questions you have on that anything here for groups did that awesome okay this's a little bit off topic feel free to say you don't want to talk about it because it is opening up a little bit of a uh I don't know what I'm trying to say see lal says what aperture did lindsey ends up shooting the group at s o usually when I shoot groups might go to aperture is like five six unless there's a lot of them but in this particular image I was shooting I was kind of testing out what I was saying about lining them up I think we should get about three point five because I wanted to see test my you know my theory it is true if you line them all up there on the same plane in relationship to your sensor then you can shoot wide open but I I don't feel comfortable going much wider than three five with multiple people because even if they move then they're out it was easy alright okay so I'm gonna keep going so we get everything covered this is overcast light just just a few tips and then now we also have like analyzing the scene so I'm going to kind of go through these things towards the end of the day one of the fun things or maybe not fun but challenging things about shooting on location is that the lights always changing and how you're lighting and how you're analyzing that environment is going to have to change for example when we began in this environment it was starting to be a little bit more of the golden hour lower light nice halo of light around her hair and we could use reflectors to papa light back in and shape the light on her face to compress that exposure range okay well then that son went behind the clouds so everything flattens out it lacks contrast it lacks direction so now what I need to do is I need to analyze the direction of light try to find where the open spots in the sky are so that I can see a little more contrast and the maybe add a pop of a little bit of phil before when the sun was out I needed to use my reflector as the main light on her face to shape the light well now I don't have to compress that same scene there isn't that bright highlight behind her and her face isn't dark anymore so now what I'm really trying to do is instead of improving the intensity of light the balance I'm actually now improving the quality but actually more the direction just filling in the shadows in her eyes so you've got to be ready to change at a moment's notice because that weather that light is going to change at a moment's notice and then it's going to change what your photograph looks like so again we started off backlit I need to add some light in there try to even out the exposure it's gonna have like a really contrast poppy look to it now light behind the clouds it's flat but I'm going to do is move her face try to find a little more contrast and maybe put a sparkle of light into her eyes now basically what we have here is a cloudy situation and overcast something that I noticed people don't realize is an overcast late there's still definitely a direction of light so you want to be careful of that there still is light from behind which could be nice because right now even though it's not bright it still gives her a little bit of halo a little bit of separation and if I stand in the wrong place when he had this way right there if I shoot this way that light is actually gonna give her split light which ok she's pretty so everything looks good but it's not exactly ideal it's definitely a little bit of split like this my good so I don't overcast day or an overcast lighting situation what I want to do is not just say oh look everything's even everything soft and then shoot because it's not all the same so I want to really look at the light on her face and we talked about before what is good light and what is bad light bad light shadows in the eyes highlights on the forehead and on the nose so what I can do to improve it is I could add the reflector underneath action in this way well cooked perfect give me a little bit of pop of light in her eyes it was something else I can do is I could actually create my own shape try to get rid of some of those highlights on her face that I don't want so can I have the black and the white place so this is something that I'll dio on a cloudy day but another one before we get to that is sometimes all of my models on the ground to mind because what happens is when she's standing there's a little bit of shadows in her eyes so when I say her on the ground your and I have her look up at me she's actually looking her eyes up at the open sky so now actually shall have catch lights whereas before maybe there was a little bit of deadness not really any light in her eyes so here look right up at me should not be even higher beautiful so you'll notice the catch flights are a lot more pronounced here can you bring your arm in front I'm just going to get I like this I'm just gonna get a real nice shot here and look right there and I'm shooting really wide open perfect pss shit from right there great ancient way up uh the reason that I like this particular angle so much especially with women and with children is when I have them sit on the ground and look up at me not only on an overcast day are they catching the light of the open sky in their eyes but whatever's closest to the camera is biggest so in this case the closest thing to the camera are her eyes so her eyes will look big and dewey and just very large and it's very flattering so another version of this is well I won't have you do this is laying there stuff your subject on their back now though facing up to the open sky which is basically a big scrim it's a big diffuser so it'll be nice and creamy even light okay I'll have you stand up for more time let me give you another overcast day solution you can add a white reflector to give a little bit of catch late in their eyes uh good ad silver uh as I said before when you're reflector is for phil it can go under the chin when it's for main late it's got to go above or even to the face so here I can add a white touch light and if I want to try to make it look like it's a little bit brighter outside I can actually put a heading for the black overhead the black foam core so when I cast the shadow on her face I call this sandwiching she's actually going to be a lot darker and when my camera goes to expose for her it's gotta open up it's gotta let more light in because she's dark but when it lets more light on her face that lets more light in on the background so I can kind of fake that it's a little bit brighter and that it also improves the direction of light on her face so looks nice beautiful no problem good beautiful one more great so keep this in mind an overcast day it's neither great light nor bad light um I heard some people say that oh you know it's it's heavenly light it's like a giant soft box well that's not so good if the giant soft boxes the overhead think about that in the studio so you have a nice quality of light but now you've got to control the direction of light and then maybe control a little bit of the intensity of it times so just make sure that you take control take a look at that overcast light and manipulate it to fit what you're trying to achieve in your photograph okay so if I could have you take away anything and that actually kind of leads into our next segment that were actually covering is that where the subject is facing makes a huge difference and that's all it took me forever to figure out you know in this one the light which isn't that right I mean you look at it it's just overcast there isn't like a clear direction of light but in this case the late that does exist is behind her head and there's a white phil card but if I just turn her a little bit this is true turning just like this and looking over at me now there's actually shape to the light and it's more contrast on the side towards where the sun is even though it's still just all shades so long structure on an overcast day there's definitely still a directional late and you have to be aware of that and uh the shot that I decided that I liked the best was this one I added a little bit of more phil just to pop in her eyes because it's it's an overcast day so it's really flat so sometimes need to add just a little bit more pop otherwise looks kind of boring I want to show a couple of my shots that I've taken in the past this is nothing but her lying on her back and overcast day it was actually raining at the time so uh this open shade of a tree and this is later in the day but it's that same concept open shade it's just like shade of a tree no light overhead no sunlight overhead she lays on her back and it's just nice even light so that was something I would consider is there anything pressing or should I continue just actually it would be great to get a quick clarification for james ames you mentioned split light could you say what you mean by split light okay so split light or cross like is any time when the light on the face is coming from two different directions so for me typically split light is when there's light coming from each side so there is an example when she's in the shade where the opens light was kind of open sky in this side and open sky in the sciences she gets highlights here and in shadows down the middle but anytime there's two light sources that cross it's it's never flattering like it doesn't produce a pleasing effect on the face and then the other version of that is if the main lights from above but then you have another light source that strong from below so there's like highlights on the forehead and then also underneath the chin that's kind of crossing so competing light sources is another way of thinking of it and maybe one more just from eighty foreign and let's just talk some general concepts here you a lot of the set ups you've used our beautiful for portrait ce how well do they work for fashion and full body shots when you need your assistance to be out of the shot what do you do differently so when it's a fashion shot might go to if possible for my look is just to try to pose the model with the light that already exists and modify as minimally as possible because when your portrait subjects like that they don't they don't behave this much you know a professional model can turn and lift her head to the sky in an overcast day and the light looks great like in every shot because she's just lifted her head up to the light also in fashion shoots like typically you're going to have some assistance so you could do the same all the same thing on a bigger scale you could have things boomed out overhead that you can't see it's just out of the shot where you could have big scrims acting as reflectors or diffusing the light so all of this applies but I either dhe go bigger or go les andi also as faras full length shots yeah a lot of these are for close up shots but for full length shots it's usually the backup use a bigger reflector all of these overcast things would be the same thing laying on your back looking up watching for where the direction of light is in the eyes if you were trying to use a filled reflector to bounce late in the eyes it's going to be a lot harder on an overcast days you can't get close because it's just not enough late to throw so you would have to use silver something bigger but I still think you'd probably struggle to make that happen so if I were photographing groups on an overcast day the I probably would go ahead and use the speed later a strobe at that point I could get the right type of light on their face

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Keynote 1
Keynote 2
Keynote 3
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews

a Creativelive Student

This class was amazing. Lindsay Adler is a great presenter...I learned so much.....I love that she spoke about natural light..strobes and speedlites. Wonderful information. I purchased this and I am glad I did. Great job Lindsay. Jean


Lindsey Adler is one of the best and most engaging photography instructors in the USA. I highly recommend this lighting course. It felt more like a 101 and a 102 course than just a basic course. She teaches in a way that makes learning alot of fun and the amount of time & effort that she puts into her video and class presentations are second to none. Her classes are well worth their weight in gold and you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge!


Lindsay is amazing , I love the way she explains everything!! This course is filled with GREAT information and helps you better understand natural lighting,strobe and flash. Thank You Lindsay, please keep your classes coming!

Student Work