Natural Light - Added some practice examples post #11

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Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977
Natural Light - Added some practice examples post #11

Can we talk about the different kinds of natural light to shoot in? Not sure if it's discussed in Understanding Exposure or not (I finally got it!), and if it is, I'm not there yet.

I shoot mostly in full shade. Mostly because there's an abundance of it in our yard, but also, when we first moved here, I remember taking some photos (pre-DSLR) in the sun, and some on here suggested moving him to the shade. I saw an immediate difference and all the shadows on his face were gone. So I never really shot out of the shade since.

So am I limiting myself? I know I've seen some people talk about shooting in the morning, or evening light. Does that mean not in the shade? If so, do you not get the shadows that you get when shooting at, say, 2pm?

I hope I don't sound stupid or anything Wink

Amy_&_Eva's picture
Joined: 08/23/07
Posts: 2378

Not stupid at all! With morning & evening sun, you can position the subjects more "in" the sun but not have the harsh shine of high daylight. In fact it can provide an awesome beautiful glow, and nice catchlights since the person doesn't have to squint. Also, you can position the subjects in front of the low-sun to get that great backlighting, like I did this past weekend----
I was just about to post a snap of Eva that I did with the evening sun backlighting her (with a goofy face--she did not want to cooperate at this point), testing out my new 300mm on a person:

The reason I was going to post this photo was that I'm noticing that even though I use single-point AF right on the face, I am still getting a lot of soft-face pics :/ but that's another story.

If I can find an example in my "stash" of late-afternoon lighting front-side, I'll post it too...

CJWilkes's picture
Joined: 01/04/09
Posts: 880

The key is to always know where your light source is. Once you understand exposure and how to compensate with your settings you can do some really great fun things. Don't be afraid of the elements. Use reflectors - have fun!

This was on an overcast day - Can create bla lighting but there is still light:

Then this was in full sun

Harsh shadows - yes, but you can make it work -

You really can make those shadows work for you. If you have a reflector those help immensely. Like here:

Amy_&_Eva's picture
Joined: 08/23/07
Posts: 2378

CJ, can you describe where the reflector was in that last photo, since it's not a closeup shot...is it a giant reflector? sorry if that's a silly question.

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977

Thank you so much!

What time would you say is the best to actually be in the sunlight for photos? Like today, I plan on trying some Easter pictures with the boys. 3pm too early? Should I look for shade at that time?

ETA: Thank you so much for posting examples too! It really helps to actually see what we're talking about Smile

CJWilkes's picture
Joined: 01/04/09
Posts: 880

"Amy_&_Eva" wrote:

CJ, can you describe where the reflector was in that last photo, since it's not a closeup shot...is it a giant reflector? sorry if that's a silly question.

It was in the left hand corner and it was a large reflector.

You can see it here in this image:

CJWilkes's picture
Joined: 01/04/09
Posts: 880

"Ladybugsteph" wrote:

Thank you so much!

What time would you say is the best to actually be in the sunlight for photos? Like today, I plan on trying some Easter pictures with the boys. 3pm too early? Should I look for shade at that time?

ETA: Thank you so much for posting examples too! It really helps to actually see what we're talking about Smile

Truthfully - Early morning just as the sun is coming up and the last hour half or 2 of daylight. With the sun closer to the horizon you have less shadows. However! - I shoot all times of the day. You can use shade or learn to play with your settings and toys to make it work for you. I find that working with the client and their schedule helps keep me busy. I did this shot around 12-1 pm. Looked at where the sun was and played with settings:

and this was around 2:30-3pm

The first shot the sun was behind me and directly on her. I really wanted the overlook of the city and her back side profile of her and dress. This one I had to work hard to keep it dark so not to blow the white of the dress and yet not too dark to under expose.

The bottom shot I had to use the hill to shade some and positioned them so the sun came in 45 degree angle on the right. It helped shade & yet give enough light. Not quite back lit - but I could see the city below and them climbing a hill. Yea - no catch lights, but hey, I still like the shot. I had a reflector near me to lighten the shadows slightly.

CJWilkes's picture
Joined: 01/04/09
Posts: 880

I forgot to add that with Jenny up on the log in both shots with the reflector - I did have DH fire off the Flash through the reflector. So I did have some ocf filler with both of them.

Jeffininer's picture
Joined: 11/07/07
Posts: 1796

I LOVE evening light!! It is just so pretty here. I haven't had much luck with morning light, but it's just not something I've practiced with a lot. I would say venture out and play! Nothing will be ruined if you just practice. See what works best for you and don't be afraid to try out new things.

The only type of light I dislike (with a passion) is harsh/direct sun. I can't work with it well and tend to over expose large portions.

Joined: 10/26/01
Posts: 3467

I love to shoot in the last hour before sunset. The light is soft enough that you can have people look directly toward it (to light their face) but not have them squint.

However, w/ that said ... I hardly EVER get to shoot at that time (or around sun rise either) so ... like Cindy pointed out, you just have to learn to work with what you get. Reflectors, fill flash, and shade are always your friends. Smile

Best,
GiGi

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977

Okay, so I'm back with some examples of what I tried the other day. My friend came over to help me get the kids to at least look in the direction of the camera, and brought her kids along, so we started with them while my kids were still napping.

Here are some examples SOOC of what I tried:

#1
We all know full sun. I obviously have no clue how to shoot in it Wink

1/640
f5
ISO 100

#2
They are in the shade from the tree. The sun is to the left of the photo. I was hoping that facing them in this direction, I'd be able to catch some light from the sun in their eyes, but I guess it didn't matter? And, d'oh!, I didn't spot meter.

1/250
f4
ISO 100

#3
Same spot, just spot metered. It came out better, but what should I have done?

1/250
f4.5
ISO 200

#4
Moved around to the right side of the trees. The sun is at his back and slightly to the left of the photo.

1/250
f4.5
ISO 200

#5
On the opposite side of the #2 and #3 at the same trees. So the sun was back/right now.

1/200
f4.5
ISO 200

I have no reflector at this point, so I didn't use one. I do have a speedlite, but haven't got around to playing with it outside much. The one time I did, my photos looked really "flashy".

ButtonsMama's picture
Joined: 12/05/05
Posts: 283

I can't comment much on the lighting issue, since I pretty much suck at finding good daylight to use as well. Practice, practice, practice!

I did want to say that I actually use our car's sun shade as a reflector and it works great! Much cheaper than a real photography reflector, too.

And your boys are delish. SOOOO cute! And those outfits!! Where did you get them?

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977

Ooo! Great idea! I may have to go out to Walmart and pick one up to give it a try! Thanks for the tip!

Their outfits came from our local Gymboree Outlet. I believe it was last year's spring line. Glad they had it, because this was all that I found (anywhere) that I liked!

CJWilkes's picture
Joined: 01/04/09
Posts: 880

You can use a gray board - but you would be surprised on reflector prices. Go to EBAY and you can get them quite inexpensive.

When practicing go to the spot and you stand there. Face the sun, Face away from it. Turn around and see how it affects you. You don't want them to squint so if you are squinting they will be too.

Reflectors will help so much when it comes to shadowed areas. I recommend the 5 in 1. It offers a gold, silver, black, white, and translucent reflector.

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

Reflectors are only useful if you have someone to hold them. Or want to deal with a stand. I virtually never use a reflector. I find it much easier to just find the good light. It's pretty much always there.

I find that the best light occurs when there is open shade and a natural reflector. My favorite spot for light gives me this:

SOOC

Liam 008 PROOF by amberbella, on Flickr

and this

SOOC

Liam 335 PROOF by amberbella, on Flickr

This is shot in the corner of a building....where the sun would be just behind where his back is. The sun is reflecting off the ground and the building on the photographer's left. This is great because I can create artful shading by moving to either side. I can also get a full lit look by putting my back directly in front of the building.

Light is the most important aspect of every photo you take. It's really important to play around with all lighting situations and find out what suits your style best.

As for shooting not in shade...the best solution is to back or side light the image.

Here is a backlit example:

IMG_7654 WEB by amberbella, on Flickr

back/Side light: Often causes interesting sun flares.

Alisha 196-WEB 2 by amberbella, on Flickr

Open shade:

4 Giorgia 001-431 PROOF by amberbella, on Flickr

Gloomy day: Very even and flat lighting

IMG_0434 copy by amberbella, on Flickr

Full sun at sunset:

IMG_7204 copy by amberbella, on Flickr

Full Sun about 2 hrs before sunset: I wouldn't have been able to have them looking at me because the harsh sun would have caused major squinting.

IMG_8622 copy by amberbella, on Flickr

CJWilkes's picture
Joined: 01/04/09
Posts: 880

Learning how to use a reflector or flash fillers are important. If you can't hold it or find a way to you can always take an assistant with you on a shoot. Wink

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

I suppose Cindy and I will have to agree to disagree on this point. While I do know how to use a reflector, I've really never felt the need for one. I can't afford an assistant and it's not legal for me to use reflector stands where I shoot, so I just shoot when I know I will have great light. I have occasionally bounced flash in a natural environment, but it's just not ideal. It's never as pleasing as simply finding where the light is naturally good.

Perhaps some day I will find a use for a reflector, but as for now, I've used a reflector maybe 4 times in my photography career. I always take a small one with me to headshot sessions in case...but I almost never need it.

Then again, maybe I'm just completely wrong! I hope to work on my off camera flash skills this summer when I'm done teaching and actually have some time to develop some new skills. Perhaps I should add reflector work as well. Now if I could only find a client or two. LOL

ButtonsMama's picture
Joined: 12/05/05
Posts: 283

Honestly, I think you're both right - and that's not just me being diplomatic! I think it's important to learn how to use a reflector and an OCF, especially if you're in business. They're definitely valuable skills to have in your repertoire because you never know when you'll have to pull them out and use them.

But, I also think it's good to learn to use what you got. I've read a lot from natural light photographers, and Amber sounds just like them - you can ALWAYS find good light. Sometimes you have to work much harder than others to find it, but it's always there.

I certainly appreciate both the perspectives!

Ladybugsteph's picture
Joined: 06/21/06
Posts: 2977

That's kind of where I'm at with the reflector thing. I am nowhere near going into business for myself (and serioulsy doubt I ever would, but that's another post...), so I'm not sure just how much I want to invest into this. I'm mostly taking pictures of my kids, and occasionally family/friends for practice. I can't see myself out in my back yard with a reflector and a stand, as I'm by myself 99% of the time I'm photographing them.

Thank you for your examples! I'm such a fan of your work, and it's nice to see some examples without the use of any other equipment, since that's where I am right now.

mlark1128's picture
Joined: 05/09/07
Posts: 742

Outdoors I always aim for open shade like Amber said, or backlighting when the sun is lower in the sky (morning or evening). My siggy was taken yesterday at about 5:30pm--as you can see the sun was still pretty bright, but since it was later in the day I could get some nice backlighting. If I had turned him in any other direction he would have had dappled light all over him (he was underneath a cherry blossom tree in this picture, lake behind him). Like Cindy said you have to always be aware of where your light is coming from and how it is hitting your subject. I'm always looking for how the light hits their eyes as well--dark eyes are never appealing in a portrait.

Also, if your light is more directional, i.e. coming from the side, you want to make sure that the side of the face that is not getting direct light has at least some light hitting the apple of the cheek and there is still some light in that eye (that's hard to explain, sorry...).

This is just one of those areas that takes a lot of practice. You can learn to shoot in all types of lighting once you learn to use the light to your advantage.