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Photo Assignment: Natural Light Portraits is an interactive video course, where participating photographers can have their work reviewed. Professional shooter Derrick Story shows how to capture beautiful, illuminated portraits with natural daylight, and shares tricks for how to get fantastic shots even when the light is not so great. Derrick teaches how to work with photo disc light modifiers to bounce in light to areas that need it. He also explains how to use shade, when it's available, for a completely different look. At the end of the course, Derrick describes how to upload photos to Flickr for review and comment.
Natural Light Portrait Photo Assignment Flickr Discussion Group
Well, here we are back at the computer after our photo shoot with Edie. The first thing I want to show you is this existing light photo that I shot even before we officially got started. It was early in the morning. The guys were still setting up. There was overcast skies. And I took a shot, and I wanted to have this just as a sample of when you shoot with overcast skies. You get this shading here. The eyes aren't quite as illuminated as much. But overall, it's a pleasing photograph. You get a little bit of highlight on the hair, and in a lot of ways it's the safest time to do natural light portraiture.
So we are ready to go, and sure enough, right as we are ready to shoot, the sun bursts through the clouds and we have good, strong, direct light. So I took a shot with no modifiers whatsoever. Here we are. We have strong highlights on the hair, and we have some of the things that we talked about earlier where we get bright specular highlights on the nose, her cheekbone is picking up some. The eyes are pretty much in shadow, and then we get some real deep shadow areas here.
So, it's not the most flattering lighting in the world. And usually when we are working in this kind of lighting, we want to modify it a little bit. So that is what we have set out to do. The first thing that I tried was using a metallic reflector, and what I wanted to do was bring in a little bit of light. Actually, just kind of bring it in this angle here, and try to tone down the highlight and shadow areas, the contrast here. Now, I am going to change views here real quick, and I just want to show you that this reflector did make a difference.
We will do this right here. So here is the shot without a reflector, and you can see that these are very hot and these are very dark, and that the metallic reflector did tone things down a bit. It did kind of smooth this out. So this is a more pleasing look. Might not be exactly where we want to go, but it's not bad at all. So we kept working it, we absolutely kept working. I am going to go back to this view here. So instead of using a more reflective hot reflector, I changed to using a white reflector that's a lot softer. It's more subtle.
So we are still bouncing light in, up from this angle here, but it's a softer light. It's not as harsh. You notice now things are really starting to even out. We still have good highlight, up here in the hair, because we have direct sun coming down right here. But now because of the reflector. We are filling in some of this light here. And this is much smoother. Now, you notice though, as soon as something is not in the reflector zone then we can get that harsh light. So this isn't being affected by the reflector, and you can tell the difference right here.
So this is a good example of when you have that fill reflector and then when you don't. So we kept working the scene. I am going to move here. So this time what we did, and you may recall when you watched the previous movie, now we took a white diffuser and we moved it overhead. So we are still working in the bright sun. It doesn't look like it by the shot because the sunlight is traveling through the diffuser right here. Tracey, our assistant, was holding the diffuser up over Edie's head and diffusing the light that's coming down.
So now this looks more like an overcast day or an open shade shot. We still have some highlight here. We don't have nearly as much in the hair though. We have lost a little bit in the hair. Now, one thing I want to mention really quickly when I am right here. You notice that we are holding these nice skin tones on Edie. She has this beautiful dark skin, and it's very important that we hold that. So when I was shooting, from the very beginning, I noticed that I needed to move my exposure compensation to -1.
I did that because the camera would tend to overexpose her a little bit and lighten up her skin more than I wanted. So we are shooting these with -1 exposure compensation, and that's when you have a darker-skinned subject, That's how you keep them beautiful and dark. And this is wonderful tone that we have right here. Okay. So we have the diffuser overhead. It's looking pretty nice. But we can still continue to work the shot. One thing that I wanted to do is get a little bit more light in on her face.
The way that I did that is I just changed her position a little bit. I just moved her a little bit, and actually picked up some light off the ground. We were standing - the grass - in the area that we were the grass wasn't watered and it was drier and it was more reflective, and just by angling her a little bit I got some reflection off that. You can use anything that's available. Sometimes on sand, for sure, you are going to get some reflection, but you will be surprised that if you just pay attention, if you just watch the tones on the face, by moving the model a little to the left, a little to the right, you can get some ambient reflection to sort of fill in right there.
Again, we still have the diffuser overhead. We are still looking pretty good that way, but now we have a little bit more light in here. When I was shooting, I showed you that I was using a telephoto lens, a 70-200 on a Canon 5D Mark II. What I did was I opened that aperture up to around F4, nice big aperture, and I created some distance between Edie and the background. Doing those two things on a telephoto lens will help you get a softer background.
Now, this doesn't work quite as effectively on a compact camera, and it's mainly because of the physics involved with their smaller sensor and so forth. But it does work very well on a digital SLR. So if you like these soft backgrounds, a little bit of distance, open up the aperture a bit, and you should get what you want. Well, here we are, I like this portrait quite a bit. I am very happy that we were able to get something like this out in the open sun. I think we tamed the sun for the shot. But there are more techniques we can do. One of them is if open shade is available, move in there and do a little bit of work, and I am going to show you that next.
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