Shooting portrait photography at high noon can be an intimidating thing for many of us. The light is harsh, contrasty and unflattering. Furthermore, the light in the scene creates unsightly overexposed highlights and deep underexposed shadows. The ‘dynamic range’ of this scene is too much to capture all of the tones in a single frame.
Of course, it’s easier to just avoid high noon for portraits, but sometimes the situation is unavoidable. Don’t worry! You don’t need to bring tons of flashes or studio strobes on location or any expensive equipment to save the shot!
In fact, there are several ways you can conquer this mid-day light using 100% natural light and modifiers. Here I will discuss 5 ways to modify direct sunlight with minimal expense and beautiful results. We will look at this example using a model photographed during my “Conquering Crappy Light” class on creativeLIVE where I covered the ten worst lighting situations on how to conquer them!
Lets take a look at the original image. When the subject is standing in direct sunlight, there is nothing flattering about it. The harsh light brings out all the textures in her skin, makes her squint, and is overall unpleasing to look at.
All of the images included her were photographed with one of my favorite lenses, the Sigma 85mm 1.4 lens. When photographing in direct sunlight, often your backgrounds become very distracting. Always try to frame your image to reduce background distractions and utilize a fast lens (like the Sigma 85mm 1.4) to help blur out the background and give you a more pleasing portrait. A good lens is the first step to a good quality portrait, but we are going to cover lighting solutions.
Example of shooting in Direct Sunlight | © 2013 Lindsday Adler | Lens: Sigma 85mm 1.4 | Camera: Canon 5D Mark III| ISO: 100 | Aperture: f/2.8 | Shutter speed: 1/4000sec
A great lens is the first step to a good quality portrait, but let’s take a look at our 5 solutions for conquering direct sunlight.
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After a long winter of heavy shooting and endless travel on assignment I usually take a few weeks of late spring and early summer to spend time with family and friends and do a bit of casual photography. When I don’t have to worry about deadlines, editors, athletes and assignments I leave the big pack filled with heavy fast glass and opt for an all around kit. This year it was the Canon 7D paired with the Sigma 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DC OS Macro HSM that was with me on all occasions.
I really put the 18-250mm through the paces and shot a huge variety of subjects including family snapshots, backcountry skiing, mountain biking, wildflowers, landscapes, location scouting, backpacking and more. If I had to use just one word to describe this lens it would be FUN!
© 2013 Liam Doran | Focusing was fast enough to capture sharp images of racers even at high speeds. Shutter speed: 1/1250 sec | Aperture: f6.3 | ISO 400 |Focal Length: 212mm
I did a bit of low-key coverage of a new mountain bike race in Eagle, Colorado and shot it exclusively with the 18-250. The lens focused fast and I was able to get a high number of keepers while using AI Servo and the Optical Stabilizer worked well enough to get a few shots dragging the shutter.
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One of the biggest challenges with macro photography is working with a limited depth of field or DOF. When I am shooting macro I am always trying to make sure the subject and elements in the frame appear sharp by adjusting the aperture and making sure the important elements in image fall on the plane of focus by adjusting my angle of view. But there is another important element that has a huge effect on DOF that most people don’t even know about, how a different sensor format can and will effect the depth of field in your image. Moving to a smaller sensor format at the same apparent magnification will give you lots more DOF to work with in your macro images.
Right about now most photographers even those that are at an advanced level will get a skeptical look on their faces and then proceed to tell me how wrong I am on this, but its true! Going from a full frame format to a DX format for example will give you 1-2 stops more DOF at a longer working distance.
For macro photography you should only be concerned with filling the frame and not a precise or exact magnification ratio. Instead you all you need to care about is fill the frame with a subject. With this in mind a smaller DX sensor will produce more apparent magnification than a full frame sensor since the object fills more of the frame at less magnification. In other words an object that fills the frame on a full frame sensor body at 1:1 magnification, will have much more working distance and Depth of Field when filling the frame with the same subject on a DX sensor body since you won’t need as much magnification and will be photographing from a farther distance.
Look at the following examples to see for yourself just how much more DOF there is in a smaller sensor format image vs a full frame image.
© 2013 Robert OToole Photography | Lens: Sigma Macro 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM | Camera: NIKON D800E | ISO: 100 | Aperture: f8 | Shutter speed: 1/250 sec | single SB-R200 flash. This flower was framed in the viewfinder with a full frame sensor format body in FX (full frame) mode.
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Sigma has been generating a lot of buzz in the photosphere recently! Here’s a recap and roundup of some of our favorite quotes from reviews from photo magazines, online review sites and cool photo bloggers!
George Schaub of Shutterbug.com on the 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM
“In all, as a fast, sharp prime it is certainly worthy of consideration as a creative and fun lens that will bring the best out in both stills and movies on whatever camera you mount it. And as a ‘street’ lens, it is superb.” Read the full article
Derrick Story of The Digital Story on the 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM| Art
“It’s very sharp, yet has the ability to soften backgrounds when needed. The quality of construction and design is outstanding. Even though it would be an excellent indoor, existing light optic, I would love to have it for shooting Fall color this year. It’s also worth noting that Sigma includes a lens shade and deluxe case with the lens. I wish everyone did that…” Read the full article
When our camera reads the light in a scene, its trying to give us an ‘average’ or middle grey exposure. The camera is doing its very best to give us a usable image by picking an exposure to capture both highlights and shadow values. While this is a helpful starting point, there are many different scenes that can trick our cameras into giving us a middle exposure that is certainly not what we would want for our images.
As technology has advanced, our cameras have provided us with more advanced metering modes to take the camera’s intelligence up a notch. For example, most cameras these days have a default metering system called “Evaluative” or “Matrix” depending on your camera. This mode will measure light throughout the entire frame, but put more emphasis for exposure on the areas whether autofocus points are being used. Furthermore, some cameras are programmed to compare your scene to thousands of other scenes to take its best guess at the desired exposure.
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As photographers, we often strive for that “perfect” image. Those who are most proficient in their art, in one way or another, pre-visualize the final photograph and strive to exercise the most possible control over all the variables involved in achieving the desired end result. The reality is that outside of the studio and particularly true in nature photography, all bets are off. The extensive planning and meticulous research performed prior to photographing a never before visited location may prove useful or lead to a near-fruitless and frustrating trip. The landscape artist cannot control light and precipitation and is always at the mercy of Mother Nature. Sometimes you have to come to terms with the fact that the iconic shot you saw in someone else’s portfolio will probably not be in yours. This is where you have the chance to prove your worth as a photographer by using your imagination and compositional skills to improvise and make the most out of the presented opportunities.
© 2013 Alex Filatov
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It was just about a year ago that the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens was announced at Photokina 2012 as part of the Sigma Global Vision. And what a year it has been for this amazing wide, fast prime! This lens quickly won the hearts of both technical reviewers and creative photographers around the world for its amazing optical performance even wide open at F1.4, its design and build, and of course, its incredibly competitive street price.
Detail shot of the front element of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens.
Here’s a rundown of just some of the highlights of the first year of this lens
Recently, I headed to Sandy Hook, NJ well before dawn to catch both the sunrise, and moonset over the beach. Here, facing west, is Moonset, captured in morning twilight with the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM | Art lens on a classic 5D. Look very close on the horizon for the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, too! 1 second at F16, ISO 100, on a tripod, of course!
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In my workshops and presentations over the past few years, I have discussed my extensive use of two powerful software packages: Helicon Focus and Photomatix. Helicon Focus stacks multiple images, each focused on different planes, creating one super-focused image. Photomatix combines multiple images photographed with different exposure values, creating one file with a super-wide exposure range.
“Wild Chervil at Sunrise, Kelleys Island, Ohio.” Photographed during the 3rd Annual sponsored Island Photo Adventure photo workshop sponsored by Sigma. Nikon D800E. Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM. f/16. 1/15 second. ISO 100. Nikon cable release. Gitzo GT2541EX tripod and GH2780QR ball head. This image was processed using both Helicon Focus stacking software and Photomatix Pro HDR photography software. Photo © 2013 David FitzSimmons. All rights reserved.
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In most of my sessions, I’m always trying to stop the action of my subjects rather than show the movement. I would say the majority of my clients prefer to see sharp images of themselves and of their children. Sometimes the imagery, for me, feels a little bit static. So when I had the opportunity to photograph the Keeneland Races in Kentucky a few months ago, I decided to do something a little bit different and create some images with movement in them by slowing down my shutter speed to create the feeling of moving along with the subject. This creates a very soft image, but it still has enough detail that you can see what is happening. I found that it takes a lot of practice to get it right, or at least get close enough to create the illusion of movement. Recently, I have started to look for opportunities to do this in my work. As a professional photographer, I want to raise the bar for myself and be able to show my range of abilities by creating different effects in my work. Capturing the moment is still the most important aspect of my storytelling imagery, but how I do that is what I’m trying to change.
© 2013 Judy Host |
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One of our key missions here with the No Fear Photography blog is to teach photographers to take more creative control of their cameras in order to make stronger photos because taking the camera off full-auto-everything puts the power of shutter speeds, ISO and F-stops firmly in your hands. There’s many more variables, too, such as white balance, single/continuous Autofocus or manual focus, and so on to be tweaked and tuned. And the more controls you adjust, the more chance there is, that at some point in your photography, you are going to miss a shot due to operator error.
This was supposed to be a photo of two ducks. It was captured at 1/60 second at F2.8 ISO 100 in broad daylight, which was absolutely not the proper settings for this situation! (look very closely near the middle of the frame and you can just about make a few dark smudges of tailfeathers…)
Don’t worry too much about it. It happens to everyone, every now and again.
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