To be completely honest, we prefer to take the easy route and shoot in soft, warm, beautiful light early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Who doesn’t? But, let’s face it. That just doesn’t always happen. On occasion, we all find ourselves having to photograph a session in brighter-than-we-like sunny days or grey overcast days.
Here are some ideas that we use in our own sessions:
Our Big Three
Regardless of the time of day or weather conditions we always do these three things:
- Meter. Always meter for proper exposure. We like to take a meter reading off the subject’s face to be sure that exposure setting is correct. Get in real close to the subject (everyone we photograph loves this part, lol) and choose a part of the cheek next to the nose to get an accurate measure. That way you know, regardless of the area around the subject, the subject will always be properly exposed.
- White balance. Color temperature can change quite a bit when shooting outdoors especially if it is cloudy or you change locations. We always bring a grey card.
- Scrim/Reflector. We like to bring ours to block light or add some light when we need to.
- Turn your subject around. Turn your subject’s back to the sun. When facing a subject toward the sun, you will most likely get squinty eyes. By placing their back to the sun, it’s possible for them to see without the bright sunlight beaming in their eyes. You will probably blow out the sky but you can always add in a sky/cloud overlay in Photoshop. Just make sure you meter your subject’s skin correctly. If you can choose a location with a darker or shaded background behind them that is even better.
- Go urban! Sticking with urban locations can easily alleviate some of the issues with full sun. It’s much easier to find open shade with lots of buildings around. This is our first choice for days we have sessions during times when the sun is still pretty high and bright.
- Get creative with props! We like to get more creative with props that will help block sun off the face. Hats and umbrellas can help block the sunlight. We also ask our clients to bring a nice pair of sunglasses just in case we want to turn them into the sun.
- Get out your grey card. Unlike the warm tones created by the sun, cloudy days tend to have grey overtones that can cause your images to be blue. White balance is very important. We often begin with a grey card and switch to Kelvin if we need to warm things up even more.
- Turn to the light. Turning the subjects face to the most light usually helps to give a direction to the light. However, this type of lighting can produce dark eyes easily. We watch the light in the eyes and have the subject tilt their face up slightly to be sure enough light is shining into the eyes.
- Fill flash. You can also use a flash to fill dark eyes. We like to pop just enough flash to fill the eyes but not over power the light from the sky. We start with -1 1/3 and adjust if needed.
- Use your reflector. Another great tip is to use a reflector or scrim. By pointing the reflector at the subject, you can fill the eyes with just enough light.