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Old 26th March 2014
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OlyPaul OlyPaul is offline
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OlyPaul's Outdoor Portrait Lighting Tips

The quality of lighting is paramount in outdoor natural light portraiture and here I hope to show how it can be achieved without reflectors or fill in flash even on the brightest sunny day.

You can off course always correct bad lighting in post processing but getting it right makes it less work and always looks better.

Now in my opinion when some one says a overcast sky or open shade is best for outdoor portraits I tend to disagree, true they will need less work then bright contrasty light but will still be prone to dark eyes (panda eyes).

Bright midday sun


Grey very overcast sky diffused light.


As you can see even the diffused sky light produces the top lighting that causes panda eyes.

All of these following examples were taken round midday on very bright summer days. I actually prefer these conditions as when you modify the light by looking for where the light is right you get a effect that is not unlike the large soft boxes used in a studio.

The thing to do is to find natural or man made objects that prevent the light from coming directly overhead and filter the light onto the subject from a lower angle rather than coming from overhead and positioning your subject accordingly.

Now for a few example, the first few are not taken in exotic settings but mundane places like you garden.


Here I simply used a patterned bed sheet that was hanging on the clothes line in the garden to stop the bright overhead sunlight and use the open sky as a soft box.






This one of chelsea was taken at my sons house on a hot summers day where there is no natural shade (new house and garden), in fact it was taken at the same time as the one of chelsea with panda eyes in the paddling pool.

So I took her to the front of the house and positioned her just inside at the front of the narrow gully way between the new houses which acted as large directional soft box.





Something as simple as a large garden umbrella works just as well and is portable.



These next two were taken at Himmly Park a few good years ago and are of two female work colleagues who wanted some pics taken, again a bright summer mid day without a cloud in the sky.

Here I used a tree canopy to filter the light where I wanted it.
If it had been a overcast day I would have positioned her near the extreme edge of where the tree shade starts to intensify the lighting.





This one is little more complicated and the diagram does not do it justice,it is Himmley Hall in the park grounds, There is a large stone overhang that runs along the side of the house and his held up by large stone pillars.

Here I had directional light from the front and the side and using a long lens made the pillar behind her appear closer without seeing the bright daylight between the pillars.





I hope this gives you some ideas and proves for good portraits you do not have to put the camera away on bright summer days.
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Regards Paul.
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