Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Light & My WSJ Interview – For Real!

Good Morning Everybody,

Wall Street Journal You won’t believe it – I was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal yesterday! After my interview the market shot back up +465 points!  Hey, maybe they should have called me last week :).  OK, just kidding.  But yep, I was interviewed about my perceptions of the market gyrations, the root causes of those gyrations, and what was I going to do about it. It was WSJ reaching out to American citizens for their perceptions on our current debt crisis. My understanding is that the article is scheduled to run in the Saturday edition of WSJ – I’ll keep you posted.

Hey gang, I’ve got a great post for you today and it’s all about lighting, bad lighting conditions and how to fix it.  Hope you like it – let’s get right to it.

Don’t Be Afraid Of The Light

I been spending the last few days working on an upcoming article for the Professional Photographers Of America award winning magazine The Professional Photographer. The article deals with working in difficult lighting conditions.  I thought I would post an excerpt from the article today.

You Still Have To Come Back With The Shot!

You know, when you're shooting a wedding, you’ve got to comeback with the drop-dead photographs regardless of the lighting conditions or any other hindrances you might encounter, for example weather of lack of an ideal location. Sometimes we find ourselves shooting in mid-afternoon with the sun high in the sky. Other times we might be working in the park without much shade and we’re fighting “speckled” lighting on the wedding party or family groups. Come back LR

We may occasionally find ourselves in difficult church situations where the light is so dim that the only illumination is from a few candles. In another church situation we might be challenged with bright stain glass windows in front of the church, at the alter area, where the ceremony is taking place. The challenge is to maintain the color in the stain glass windows while still holding detail in the shadows.

There may even be times when we walk into the wedding reception and the lighting is so low you can barely see the floor on which you’re walking.

In this post I want to address the first of these five lighting challenges, High noon bright sunlight, and show you before and after images and also provide solutions to these challenges. I hope you find this information useful and informative for your upcoming wedding events. Let's get right to it.

High Noon Sun For Bridal Photographs.

Unfortunately, we seldom have the opportunity to photograph our wedding couple, their families and attendants in prime lighting conditions or the “sweet-light” time of the day. High noon or early afternoon sun has more often been the case and always been a big problem for wedding photographers. The sun’s angle in the sky, if high enough, will pocket the eye sockets - not a good thing at all. So how do we handle this light challenging situation during your summer afternoon weddings?

First Backlight the Subject(s)

My general rule of thumb when shooting outdoors is to always backlight the subjects – have them turn away from the sun with their faces in shadow. Another challenge to this rule is that with the subjects turned away from the sun, you’re still able to pick up a decent quality background behind them.

Use Reflectors

Garden Party Let’s say for example, the background is working – how are we going to light your subjects? One solution is in using reflectors. I like to bounce the sun's rays back at the subject.  Yes, you do have to be careful about the sun’s intensity coming off the reflector. Too close and direct and the reflective light can be blinding. Part of that problem can be solved by having your reflector about 20 feet from the subject as I did in this photograph– Figure 1. In this image, the bride was able to look up and back into the camera without any problem or feeling of discomfort or even worse squinting. Figure 2 shows the position of the bride, my assistant, and myself using my SunSpotz reflector when capturing that photograph.

DAZ Reflector set up Now take a look at our next photograph – Figure 3 below. This image is revealing the lack of an ideal situation, high noon, bright, very sunny location without much foliage to take advantage of. How in the world are we going to get a decent photograph in this location? Hey, that’s my job and paraphrasing Tim Gunn, I’ve got to make it work.  As I stated above, the first thing I'm going to do when working outdoorsSt Elizabeth Anne Seton Church - closer is to position the sun behind my subject(s).

With the sun behind the subject(s) I created a  nice accent light on her back, hair and veil. With the bride face in complete shadow, I can easily bring up the highlight side of the face by bouncing the reflected light from the sun directly back into the bride’s face. As you can see in this photograph, Desert DancerIMG_5662Figure 3, we get a beautiful result. I will admit, that the sun was really bright so I asked the bride to keep her gaze down so as to not blind her. My lens choice was a Canon 100 mm F2.8 macro lens at F3.2. The larger aperture framed my subject while blurring the background nicely. As it turned out we captured a nice soft portrait of our bride in the burning sun of a hot summer early afternoon.

Use Large Translucent Umbrellas

But, what happens if you want to photograph more than just one person at the same location and lighting situation? Well, that's where my 84 inch translucent umbrella comes into play. The nice thing about my 84 inch translucent umbrella is the fact that it can be held by one hand. Secondly, it creates a 7 foot shadow under which I can photograph up to four subjects.

Z-Cloud-IMG_4419 Take a look at our next photograph – Figure 4. It shows the size of the umbrella next to the subject.  This umbrella is made by Westcott and is my favorite. I was using my Canon 100 mm F 2.8 macro lens at F3.2 which gave me a long enough focal length to throw the background out of focus and yet keep sharp focus on both the bride and the groom.

The umbrella was positioned camera left intercepting and diffusing the sun’s rays before they landed on the bride and groom. With the umbrella intercepting the sun’s ray’s from camera left, not only do we get the couple in the shadow of the umbrella but since the umbrella’s surface is brightly illuminated too, we are also creating a three dimensional direction of light on the subject free of charge. The light couldn’t be more beautiful.

Use Large Apertures

Umbrella huggyThe cool thing about using reflectors and large translucent umbrellas is the fact that I can use wide apertures to soften the background. In my final example, Figure 5, the image was captured at 1/500 second at F3.2 with my Canon 100mm F2.8 macro lens. The result is a beautiful photograph of the bride and groom that captures the fun and spontaneity of the day and still gives us a great result in a very challenging lighting situation.

The point is this; as I’ve said since the beginning of this series, you’ve got to come back with the image – no excuses. A depth of knowledge in the subject of lighting and a creative approach to the lighting challenge will get a great image about every time.

BTW, you catch a video tutorial I did on this subject of using reflectors in bright sunlight and create beautiful wedding portraits right here. Enjoy!


Hey gang, that’s it for me today.  Hope you enjoyed the post.  Remember, tomorrow is Technique Tuesday on Thursday.  Tomorrow’s title – it has a bit of an Oprah ring to it – “5 Of My Favorite Things”.  I know you’ll enjoy the post.

See ya’ then,  David

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