The Polarizing Filter
Start with your subject’s eyes closed
A different angle
Screen your subject
- Portrait Photographer's Handbook
- 500 Poses for Photographing Women
- 500 Poses for Photographing Men
- Posing for Portrait Photography: A Head-to-Toe Guide for Digital Photographers
- Doug Box's Guide to Posing for Portrait Photographers
- Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers
- Light It, Shoot It, Retouch It: Learn Step by Step How to Go from Empty Studio to Finished Image
No doubt, you’ve heard or read on more than one occasion that direct sunlight is no friend of the portrait photographer. Generally, that’s true if you don’t first put some thought into working with direct sunlight. You’ve certainly seen (and may have shot) those vacation photos with one or more people standing under a midday sun. It typically creates dark shadows in their eye sockets or other parts of the photos, making it difficult to identify them, muting colors and degrading details and skin tones.
The time-honored solution is to photograph outdoors portraits on cloudy days or during the early morning or late afternoon when the sun is less harsh, produces fewer hard shadows and baths subjects in a more even light. You’ll definitely be able to produce some excellent portraits under these conditions, but direct sunlight shouldn’t be overlooked either. It will illuminate your subject continuously and can be controlled when you know how…which is what the following tips should help you do.
Whenever shooting outdoors, whether its portraits or most any other type of photography, you want a polarizing filter attached to the front of the lens. It will cause the sky to appear a deeper blue, which creates a more dynamic background for your portraits when the sky is included. Even without the sky present, all colors will typically look richer, which will add dynamic quality to your portraits. A polarizing filter will also reduce reflections that could occur from water features in your portraits or bright surfaces on your subject’s clothing.
Bright sunlight will cause many people to squint, which not only makes it difficult to focus on their eyes, but also results in a portrait that doesn’t allow their personality to shine, which is often revealed in the eyes. The trick to overcome the squinting subject is to ask him or her to close his or her eyes just before you’re ready to take the photo. Then, on the count of three, ask him or her to open the eyes wide as you simultaneously record a pleasing portrait.
Another technique is to position your subject, so the sunlight doesn’t hit him or her directly. Then, use a white, gold or silver reflector or a wireless flash unit to reduce/eliminate any deep shadows that may still be evident with the sunlight illuminating the subject from that alternative angle. You may need a bit of trial-and-error to determine the exact amount of reflection to fill the shadows, thus revealing detail, without hitting your subject in the face with too much light. A wireless flash will accomplish the same elimination of deep shadows. Consider using a diffuser on the flash head to control the strength of the light, so it’s more even as well as emphasizing the three-dimensionality of the subject.
Another aid that can help to soften any hard contrast caused by direct sunlight is a translucent screen. Position it above the subject, so the sunlight is filtered through it, reducing its intensity, and casting a similarly diffused light, which also improves color saturation and skin tones.
You can also look for locations where there is the natural screening of overhead branches and leaves. Again, these retard some of the direct sunlight, but also create wonderful splashes of light that illuminate without causing squinting by the subject or muting colors and skin tones.
Photo copyright PhotographyTalk member Traci
People who read this PhotographyTalk.com article also liked:
Your feedback is important to thousands of PhotographyTalk.com fans and us. If this article is helpful, then please click the Like and Re-Tweet buttons at the top left of this article.