The lighting in a photograph can make the difference between average and wow. This article focuses on using existing or ambient light, camera flash and reflective light that will give your photo the professional look.
- Cloudy days. Clouds are a natural scrim and or filter. A scrim is any material that filters direct sun or movie lights. Clouds soften the sun light and eliminate the harsh shadows on the face and distribute the light evenly. If you use automatic fill flash on your camera to hi-light the subjects face, the background will be darker. A scrim can be a white sheet suspended between two poles or over a line for sunny days to soften the harsh sun light.
- Winter time. Take morning photos between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. The sun is coming in at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees and sharpens the colors. In the afternoon shoot photos between 2:00 and 4:30 p.m. The afternoon sun warms the skin tones and colors. Avoid the high midday sun as it washes out the colors and casts harsh face shadows. It can add five to ten years of age to a person’s face.
- Summer time. Take the photos between 6:00 and 9:00 a.m. In the afternoon photos work best between 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Avoid the harsh midday sun, unless you are taking photos in the shade.
- Mid day photos. Utilize the shade under trees with on camera fill flash, or in the shadow of buildings or use a scrim without fill flash.
- Fill light. Light colored walls with sun shining on them creates great fill light. The photographer places their back against the wall and places the subject in front of them. You can meter automatically or manually if your camera will allow it. If the wall is white it may be too bright for your subject. Professional photographers use this trick for swimsuit photos by utilizing white fill or gold fill cards and have the sun shine onto them. Gold fill cards give a warm, bronze hue to the skin. You can also use those silver call window reflector as fill cards.
- Using Window light. Put your subject next to a window and use the manual setting on your camera. Focus on a neutral color such as gray or the face. Do not focus on the lightest part of the scene as this cause the photo to be too dark. Once you have your setting then focus the scene and take the picture.
- Pro tip: Bounce flash: If have a 35 mm Canon EOS or Nikon this hint will give your photos the studio look without the expensive lighting equipment. (Note photo below.) On camera flashes that are on top of the camera will leave shadows when you turn the camera vertical. To eliminate side shadows this is accomplished with an external camera flash attachment that that can flip up i.e. SunPack flash brand. Do not put the flash into the camera hot shoe, but utilize an item called a sync cord. That way you can hold the flash up and away from the camera. You can also buy an item called the Stroboframe that screws into the bottom of the camera. The flash is then placed into a hot shoe attachment. And the other pro trick—always meter manually—never automatic when indoors. Happy Shooting! You can find more hints & tricks in my book @ Clicking for Cash from Home