Diffusing Summer Sunlight for Perfect Portraits PART TWO

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Equipment:

This is the second of a two-part lesson. To read the first part, please click here.

For the second half of our outdoor shoot we chose to use a local city park as our location to give the look of a sunny garden. One of the best parts of shooting on location in the summer is taking advantage of flowering bushes and trees. I really like shooting wide open for a soft and color swirled bokeh effect. The image above was shot at f4, 160/sec. With so much light to work with, I chose ISO 100 for maximum detail.

My team and I were forced to again shoot in the middle of the day while the light was directly overhead and far too bright to shoot in full sun. For this location, I had several shots planned and needed to get them done in a very short time frame. So for this reason I chose to use the small Photoflex LitePanel. This scrim is sized at 39x39" and perfect for working with one person. I needed to be able to quickly move and adjust and the LitePanel so we mounted it on a LiteReach+ extendable arm stand. This allowed my assistant to easily adjust the scrim as the subject moved and changed poses.

In the example below, I had our model Whitney seated rather than standing to center her in front of the flowering bush and to make it easy for the scrim to be placed above her. The resulting effect is soft and even lighting with flattering shadows beneath the chin and brow bone.


I was happy with the light but wanted to brighten Whitney's skin tone and add more sparkle to her eyes. I chose to use the white/warm surface of a 32" MultiDisc Reflector, placed to the right of the subject to pop more light into the face and increase shadowing. In the resultng image, shown below, the shadows are slightly deeper, sculpting the cheek bones more and adding a dramatic catch light to the eyes.


For the next shots, we changed wardobe and moved to another part of the park with dappled sunlight falling on another flowering bush. This spot had a more direct angle to the sun than where we started and it was difficult for Whitney to keep her eyes open, especially with a reflector bouncing more light into her face. To counteract this, we added a 40 degree grid to further diffuse the bright light.


In the example below, you can see that the image on the right with the grid added is more balanced in terms of exposure and Whitney was able to open her eyes all the way.


Another thing to consider when working with a LitePanel is whether you want your background to be in full sun, part sun or completely under the scrim. In the example below, the image on the left is mostly in sun with a few hot spots while the shot on the right shows the background in full sun. This comes down to personal preference and the specific needs of your client or subject.


For the final shot, we wanted to feature a statement necklace and let Whitney's hair down with the hope that the wind would catch it. It's important to keep in mind that while you can take advantage of natural backgrounds, you can also use this lightng technique with a backdrop. We chose one from Serendipity Backdrops that fit with the creative direction of the other shots. In the example below, the MultiDisc Reflector was placed flat in front in front of Whitney, also below the LitePanel.


In the example below, you can see that we experperimented with holding the MultiDisc partly in sun to create interesting catch lights.


All in all, the shoot was a success and we got all the shots we needed in the time allotted. I couldn't have done it without the Photoflex LitePanel and will enjoy using it all summer long.

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Written and photographed by Laura Tillinghast.

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