Find a place in the sun

Know how to work the an­gles and you can turn a dif­fi­cult light­ing sit­u­a­tion to your ad­van­tage, as James Pater­son demon­strates

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Use bright sun­light to your ad­van­tage when shoot­ing por­traits out­doors

On a very sunny day the dif­fer­ence in bright­ness be­tween ob­jects in sun­light and those in shade in­creases, which re­sults in more con­trast. For faces, the hard di­rect light from the sun can be un­kind. But this doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean we can’t go out and shoot por­traits on a sunny day – we just need to know how to work the an­gles.

The tra­di­tional ad­vice for pho­tog­ra­phers is to shoot with the sun be­hind them, as this re­sults in frontal light­ing on the sub­ject. But for por­traits, if the frontal light is di­rect sun­light then there will be harsh shad­ows, and the sub­ject will prob­a­bly squint too. One way to fix this is to re­verse the po­si­tions, so that you and your cam­era are fac­ing the di­rec­tion of the sun, and the sub­ject has the sun be­hind them.

This po­ten­tially gives us three im­prove­ments in one. First, it throws

It throws the sub­ject’s face into shade, mak­ing the light softer and more flat­ter­ing, re­duc­ing the risk of harsh shad­ows em­pha­sis­ing wrin­kles or less-than-per­fect skin tex­ture

the sub­ject’s face into shade, mak­ing the light softer and more flat­ter­ing, re­duc­ing the risk of harsh shad­ows em­pha­sis­ing wrin­kles or less-thanper­fect skin tex­ture. Sec­ond, it cre­ates edge light­ing, giv­ing our sub­ject a halo that em­pha­sises the shape of the head and body. And third, it cre­ates a nice sep­a­ra­tion be­tween the per­son and the back­ground.

One fi­nal note on safety: never look through your Nikon’s viewfinder di­rectly at the sun. If you’re putting your model be­tween your­self and the sun, use Live View for com­pos­ing and check­ing fo­cus. That way you won’t risk dam­ag­ing your eyes.

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