Tuesday's Tips: Controlling the Sun

I love summer.  It is one of my favorite seasons to photograph ouside, long days and warm weather.  However, it can also bring up interesting challenges, when you have a portrait assignment, the subject is only available during the mid day hours and the light is very harsh.  Shooting these portraits either early in the day or late in afternoon and early evening would be a better way to do this.  If this is not possible, here are a few ways to make beautiful light.

In all these situations you need to determine your basic exposure, using the in-camera meter for the background, or as I refer to it, "the element you can not control".  Use your strobe or a reflector to fill in the light on your subject's face.  If you are using manual strobes, a flash meter is the best way to determine your strobe exposure.  I use a Sekonic 478DR meter.  If you do not own a flash meter, you can use the screen on your camera to determine your exposure.  It will get you close.  Make sure you really see your screen.  For this I use a $90 item, called a "Hoodman Loupe"  It's money well spent.

The shots:
1. Set up your shot with the sun directly behind your subject.  This will give you a nice hairline light, and separation from the background.   The fill on this image was a speedlght on camera,
on TTL, dialed down 1 stop.

Writer and adventurer Guy Grieve at Walden Pond in Concord, MA, for the Guardian UK.

Writer and adventurer Guy Grieve at Walden Pond in Concord, MA, for the Guardian UK.

2, Bring your subject into the shade, under a tree, or a large column.  The light on the subject's face was created by a Nikon Speedlight held by my assistant and bounced off a California Sunbouce Micromini reflector fired using a PocketWizard TT5.

Rudy Dieudonne on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA, for Ebony Magazine.

Rudy Dieudonne on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA, for Ebony Magazine.

3  If you can't back light the subject, or there is no shaded area, due to your need for a specific background,  then, bring your own shade.   Place the subject under a translucent diffuser.  This will help knock out those ugly shadows and soften the light.  Then you can use your strobe to give your light direction.  The light in this photograph is a Dynalite Uni-400 strobe powered by a Jackrabbit battery and fired through a Chimera beauty dish.

 Nancy Taylor, Sr. Minister at South Church ( seen in back), photographed at Copley Sq in Boston, MA for Sports Illustrated. 

 Nancy Taylor, Sr. Minister at South Church ( seen in back), photographed at Copley Sq in Boston, MA for Sports Illustrated. 

4. Overpower the shadow.  (compare Mitt Romney & baby's faces and faces of others in background.)   Your light source must be fairly close to the subject.  If you are using speedlight, be prepare to adjust power output (+/-), to get the correct effect, even it is set to TTL.  ( in my case, I often find myself adjusting my speed light -1).  This is a speed light on camera, not my ideal way of shooting with a speedlight.   But as a photojournalist,  I have to go with what each situation allows me to do!

Mitt Romney in NH for Corbis

Mitt Romney in NH for Corbis

These are some of my ways to deal the bright summer light.

May you control the bright summer light and enjoy outdoor shooting!