Last Friday I had the absolute pleasure to meet and work with Darni for a photoshoot. Within a few correspondence earlier on that week, Darni and I were able to arrange a photo session in Newstead-Brisbane. The idea was to photograph her in a new outfit she has recently acquired (go to her blog on www.darni.net to find out information about her stylish attire.) and give herself, the outfit some context in the form of photographs.
After the initial meet and greet, we were straight into doing what each person did best. That was me weaving magic behind the cameras and her just looking amazing in front. My gear for this shoot was my relentless Canon 5D Mark 3, and my trusty 70-200 2.8 IS Lens. To support me in the shoot I also made good use of the Avenger C-stand+Extender arm with a Rogue flash bender XL. My flash was a Canon 580EXII firing from a Pocket wizard TT5 unit to my camera. my supporting camera was my nifty DJI Osmo for video. (Check out the video at the bottom of the blog).
The rest of this blog will go on about my thoughts whilst I was doing the shoot :)
As a photographer I am often required to deal with the weather conditions that mother nature offer's me. For this particular shoot, I had to contend with high noon, full blasting sun. There was zero cloud cover to offer any relief from the harsh and hard sunlight. To make things that little bit more challenging, there was the frequent strong winds to contend with.
Photographing in noon sun can be challenging, especially if sunlight isn't diffused with any cloud cover. The light shines from directly above the model which causes very hard shadows around the facial features. The eyes can become very dark and the skin tones overblown. The light is blotched with areas of shadows and hard light. The model can have trouble looking in certain directions (towards the sun), camera flare can occur if the lens is pointed in the direction of the sun. Flash sync is often exceeded. Prolonged times for being out in the sun can be exhausting and uncomfortable for team members, LCDs are difficult to review. The list goes on and on.
The second factor, was the wind. A windy day can put a dampener on the shoot. Wind causes light stands to topple over, hair to be blown in all sorts of random directions, clothes to behave erratically, havoc on any audio recording. Lets just face it, wind and photography just don't mix very well.
Hence this is why most photographers will try to steer away from shooting around the noon period, and delay or reschedule the shoot earlier or later on the day. However, if you are a photographer who can still consistently create good quality images in these less-ideal conditions, I believe it is a good representation of their skill, professionalism and their flexibility to adapt to conditions.
When I first approach a shoot in the mid day hard light. My first goal is to look for shade or cover. Sometimes this can be difficult, because you may be out in an open area. However if there is anywhere with a patch of shade where the model can tuck under, this would be the best place to start. What I try to do is at the very least get the model's face in full shade. What that would do is diffuse the light that is falling onto their face, which results in an even spread of light around the face.
Once the face is evenly lit. It is time to meter for the light that is falling onto the face. I always meter for the highlights - the brightest part of the face. I still try to use an incident light meter where ever I can. I just find it fool-proof and consistently works for me. The camera's reflective meter can often be tricked and give unreliable results, and remember, the LCD can be difficult to see in the broad daylight.
On the light meter, I enter in the aperture and ISO that I wish to use and then I let the meter measure the required shutter time I need to achieve correct exposure. I then enter the required figures into my camera, which is in manual mode. This method just takes all the guess work out of finding the exposure, and reduces the time you spend reviewing at the back of the LCD, taking excessive test shots. To a certain degree it makes you as the photographer appear more professional, with your smooth and flowing workflow.
If I must shoot out in the sun, the idea is to try to have the sun behind the model. This is challenging if the light is directly above the model, but do so in a way that he/she is comfortable looking at the camera without squinting. By doing this. you will maximize the amount of shade around the face, which will minimize blown highlights on the skin. (One of my biggest hates) If done properly the sun will work in your advantage by offering you a rim/hair light on the model. Now its time to fill in the light with a dedicated flash unit.
The last thing I will mention in this blog is about prioritizing the clothing when it comes to exposure. Like I have been saying the lighting conditions during the noon sun isn't ideal. The dynamic range required to capture the entire scene, often exceeds even the most high-end cameras. The point I want to make is, if you must prioritize a subject, Priorities the clothing and the skin tones. Do what you must to keep these parts within your dynamic range, this is often done at the expense of blowing out your background.