Shooting outdoors in sunlight
Photographing women outside in sunlight is often difficult because direct light is not flattering. Harsh shadows render texture but this is unattractive on a girl’s face. It works when showing the whole of your model, say on a beach, but it’s by no means easy. The question of lighting is the first consideration with outdoor shooting. When working in a studio the photographer has the ability to move lights wherever he wishes, to create the best effect or mood. Outdoors there is only one light and there’s no alternative but to work with it.
When working outdoors I try to arrange for the light to come from behind the model. Pictures A and B are good examples of this. The advantage is that the background looks more three dimensional. The model stands out from it and she doesn’t look directly into the sun. What must be remembered is to throw light into her face. It’s important to expose the shot sufficiently so you don’t end up with something which is almost a silhouette. Should you adjust the exposure for the face, the otherwise beneficial rim lighting you’ve got burns out. The background will be overexposed which also spoils the shot.
A reflector is the answer. One of the simplest is a 4 ft square of builder’s polystyrene sheet. Place it on the ground between the camera and the model. For the best effect, the sunlight should fall directly on to the sheet. The reflected fill light from the sheet flatters a girl’s face and skin which is an added bonus.
An alternative is to use the flash on your camera or one held near the camera. This is illustrated in Picture C. It may not be so flattering but is a way of getting a result if you can’t use a reflector or there isn’t enough light. Remember to reduce the power of the flash by 1 to 1.5 stops to prevent it washing out your subject.
The girl was leaning on a fence with an area of grass in front of her. The polystyrene sheet lay on the ground in front of her. It has not only brightened her face but it also prevented the grass giving it green tint; something which is a problem when working with film but can be remedied later in the digital world.
This picture was taken in broken shade. The sun still managed to light the girl from behind but it was more difficult to find a place to put the reflector. It wound up in the only patch of sunlight leaning against a nearby wall to the left of the shot. It still provided enough power to light her face and body.
This shot was taken from inside a room while the girl outside lent against the railings of a balcony. The position of the sun and the shadow of the building made it impossible to use a reflector properly. There was not enough room and insufficient light would fall on it. I used the camera’s own flash and reduced its power by 1 ½ stops. This avoided over exposing the model when the background was correctly recorded.