There are many challenges to photographing in natural light. Because I photograph children, I don’t always have a choice in what time of day we can photograph. Most of the time it is in the middle of the day, the most difficult time of day to photograph. When that happens there are a few techniques that can help to make this actually work pretty well.
Pockets of Light
With the APO 70-200mm F2.8mm EX DG OS HSM I set off to create some nice portraits in the middle of summer in Nashville in the heat of the day. The session was about photographing the three boys together and then separately. My location was the home of the family and the park that surrounded it. In this first image, I found these two wonderful bridges that created what I refer to as a “pocket of light”. This pocket of light was located in between the two bridges giving me a section of sunlight to work with. I positioned the boys with their backs to the light using the sunlight on the cement as a natural reflector to light up those gorgeous faces. My settings were used to create the depth of field that I needed to get all three boys in focus. I then adjusted the shutter speed and ISO to get the best exposure. With that much light bouncing in their faces from the cement, I wasn’t concerned with getting enough light or detail in their faces.
These next two images of Alex were photographed on the covered porch of my client’s home. I placed Alex right next to the open door facing the outside and once again used a natural reflection from the sun to illuminate his face. The light couldn’t have been better and you can actually see natural catch lights in his eyes.
You will also notice the difference in Alex’s face based on the angle I have photographed him making his face look a little bit slimmer. Occasionally I like to change the angle of my camera as with the first image. The second image I have straightened the camera and had Alex turn away from me changing the lines of his face.
The third image has Alex looking directly at me. Our heads are even and I have moved him back from the light just a bit and adjusted my shutter speed. This created a little shadow on the side of his face. This portrait was more about who he is. I used this shadow to create a more interesting perspective. His expression, more intense, changed the whole feel of the image as well. The wide-open aperture was used to soften the background putting all the emphasis on that wonderful face and those amazing blue eyes. Again, my only light source is the reflection from the sunlight on the cement in front of him, almost like a softbox.
Towards the end of my session as Nate was walking back to the house, the sun had finally reached an angle making it possible to get a nice backlit image. I love to use these images at the end of my presentation to help make the whole session a story. It also serves as a true to life personal story of Nate who is always wandering off by himself. Once again, photographing in the bright light my settings were used to maximize the exposure while at the same time stopping the action of Nate walking away and still capturing the definition of light on his hair.