Shooting in The Mid-Day Sun—Be Prepared

By Mark

It's a scholarsheep student, of course!

It's a scholarsheep student, of course!

A quick blog covering something we don’t often spend a lot of time talking about; useful equipment that every photographer should have in their bag.  This last week we went to Oklahoma to attend my stepson’s college graduation.  Very smart young man, double major, summa cum laude, etc-Sarah and his dad have every reason to be very proud, but I digress. I knew that the window of opportunity for taking the cap and gown photographs would require us to be out in the middle of the day.  The noonday sun is notoriously challenging for good portraits.  It puts harsh light on people’s faces and angry shadows for their eyes and under the nose—it is just not flattering light.  Plus of course, you get the chance to have everyone squinting into the camera.  What we want is nice soft wrap around light, which we can control.  Shadows are important for providing depth and contrast; but not for making your subjects look as if they were on a chain gang.  As we walked around the University of Oklahoma campus, we saw numerous family groups holding out camera’s and pointing them at arm’s length in the general direction of their graduates.  It was very scary.

Faced with all this I was prepared. Folded neatly into a small circle inside my camera bag was the Lastolite  One Stop 30” TriGrip Diffuser.   http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/375570-REG/Lastolite_LL_LR3651_TriGrip_Diffuser_One_Stop.html

From B&H

From B&H

The diffuser is designed with a convenient handle, so that you can if needed hold it with one hand and shoot with the other.  It clips to most light stands as well.  It also folds up into a small circular package.

The most convenient method is to have a helpful assistant, who can both look at the subject and the light and help get the right coverage.  As you can see without the diffuser, the light is pretty harsh.   

Those shades were required.

Those shades were required.

You really want to get the TriGrip as close to your subjects as you can manage.   As you can see, despite the really bright sun directly in their eyes, the lighting on their faces is nice.   You can tell where the limit of the diffuser falls as you can see the sun on the bare arm. 

Kaitlyn, John, and Holly

Kaitlyn, John, and Holly

You just need to frame the image to hide the arm holding on to the screen either in camera or leave yourself room to crop it out afterwards.  

In some shots you will want to consider adding back in a little “pop” of light to open up the shadows and add sparkle to their eyes.  You certainly can use another off camera reflector for this or actually use the dreaded on camera flash.   I powered down the flash to -2/3 to -1 1/3 stops.  You don’t want it to look like a flash was even there, but without it, the difference is noticeable. 

All in all it was a great weekend and everyone had a good time.  Now I just have to find the chance to process all the rest of the photos.