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September 14, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Taking pictures in harsh light conditions….

Picture this: You are at the zoo, it's noon, and you want to capture your little boy standing next to his favorite animal (insert animal of choice here). You turn on your camera, take the shot, and when you get home and upload your picture onto your perfectly calibrated monitor (wink, wink) you pull up a very contrasty, harsh photo. His eyes are two dark holes, his hair has a large white sun spot on it, and your vision of blowing this photo up to 20x24 and displaying it in his (insert animal of choice here) themed bedroom are shot.

Hmm.....what to do?

Every photographer knows that the most difficult time to take a beautiful, properly exposed picture, is in the direct harsh light of the early afternoon. To deal with the difficult lighting situation you should….

....try everything possible to reschedule to a time with more favorable light conditions.

Or in this case - go to the zoo later in the afternoon/evening. Shooting at sunrise or sunset is ideal. Even the best photographers can struggle with harsh noon-time light. Sometimes rescheduling or postponing the pictures is not an option so here are some tips for dealing with harsh mid-day sun:

(1) Position your subject with his/her back to the sun, (a.k.a backlighting) and expose for your subjects face. Backlighting can help you avoid the harshest of shadows and give your subject a nice glow. One problem with backlighting is that it can blow out the sky (make it white instead of blue) behind your subject - but personally I'm okay with that. Another option would be to expose for the sky, and use a little fill flash to lighten your subjects face.

(2) Find some shade! Doorways, overhangs, sides of buildings, or shade from a tree provide nice lighting in mid-day sun. But be sure to avoid objects that will cast unnatural color on your subject. Standing in front of a big red wall might make your subject look like a tomato....just a thought. (note: sometimes trees are not a good idea because the sun can filter through the branches and cause big bright spots on your subject - so look for a big bushy tree)

(3) Find a way to diffuse or block the light. You could use a light filtering disk, a piece of wax paper, a large poster board, your zoo map....anything big enough to hold between the sun and your subject to block the light. Be creative.

Here are some examples of difficult mid-day light:

Here we are in the middle of the day fishing. Super bright. I positioned my girls so that the sun was behind them and I exposed for their face. Nice, eh?

Here's an example of #3. What you can't see in the picture is that my assistant is holding a large light disc over their heads to block them from the sun.

And here's the outtake. See? Creative cropping. :) I guess I need to buy a larger light disc.


Jodie T Photography said...

Thanks Veronica - I loved it.

Jenny Esterbrook Photography said...

Lovin' me some Tuesday tips! :) Thanks so much, these are all great topics :)

Anonymous said...

I think I need longer arms...

Erin said...

Great tips . .