Less Than Perfect Light When Photographing People

In this image, I positioned the model looking away from the sun, and had a reflector positioned to camera left, angling light back into her face. This created a nice, soft light on the model, while also creating nice catchlights in her eyes.

Sometimes, the conditions for photographing are just not what we hope for. Maybe the sky is overcast, or maybe the sun is just too darn harsh. Neither condition is ideal, but it shouldn’t stop you from shooting.

In these sample photos, we were dealing with some very harsh light. The shoot was planned for early morning- I had assumed we’d still have nice light at 8am.  Didn’t work out that way. The sun was harsh, and anyone looking into it was forced to squint. My solution? Put the sun to Robyn’s back, but the last thing I wanted to do was use a flash.  Instead, I pulled out my trusty reflector, and positioned that in such a way as to put more angular light onto the model’s face. It worked like a charm.  I was able to create a nice soft light, using the sun as a hair light and rim light, and use the reflector to light Robyn’s face.

So the moral of the story becomes, in harsh light, don’t look to the sun to be your main light in a situation like this. The light will be

On this shot, the sun is even higher now as we get later in the morning. The reflector is positioned below and to the right of Robyn.

harsh and most likely, not pleasing to you, or flattering to your model.  Keep a reflector handy, and failing that, don’t be afraid to use a little fill flash if needed.

Robyn In The Water
The setup for this image is similar to the bikini shot, but for this one, the sun has moved slightly and is to camera right. With the reflector again positioned at camera left, we're getting nice warm, soft light into her face and body.

3 thoughts on “Less Than Perfect Light When Photographing People

  1. jeezycreezy August 12, 2010 / 12:27 AM

    I LOVE reflectors.
    The best part about them (other than the amazing lighting they help to provide, of course) is that homemade reflectors work just as well as store-bought ones 😀

    My favorite shot is the one of her in the water–so dreamlike!


  2. Rick August 12, 2010 / 12:46 AM

    Thanks Jeezy! I wholeheartedly agree. I have a friend who is an amazing portrait shooter, who uses insulation boards (the foam with the silver side) from Home Depot! $8 a sheet (4’x8′) and it makes 2 great reflectors. Slide it half and half again, tape two quarters together and you have a nice fold up reflector.


    • jeezycreezy August 12, 2010 / 2:22 AM

      Yeah, mine is made of stiff poster board, left white on one side, and with aluminum foil (flattened nicely, of course) glued to the other side. haha


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