There may be a dozen ways to skin the proverbial outdoor lighting cat (sorry for that, felines), but it never hurts to review some of the most common basics. Some of my favorite approaches outdoors start with pure natural light with some simple modifications, leaving the strobes or speedlites at the ready only when they are absolutely needed or desired. After all, natty light should look natural, no?
A cursory review of using a reflector to fill shadows a little bit on your subject when el sol is looming from behind, and the use of a scrim to tone down a back lit / rim sunlight setup make appearances in this very-internet-friendly four and a half minute clip.
Basic details to consider outdoors with natural light:
- Time of day, the most obvious consideration, can radically affect your results. Golden hour is nice, but you can control midday with the right efforts (as shown in the video).
- Type of modifiers can change your results, too. Especially scrims. If you use a 2 stop scrim one day and a 1/4 stop silk another day, you will have very different location and composition considerations to contend with.
- Expose for your subject, even if it means overexposing your sky or background, unless it's mission critical that everything is evenly exposed (by your own standards or client demands). A strobe is often necessary to achieve this, but some raw trickery can also help you fake it in post if the levels aren't too wildly different.
- Make your decision on depth of field and type of light diffusion before setting anything up, then work to achieve both. If you simply can't, then adjust or move locations.
My backyard in south Texas is pretty simple, and hardly the most picturesque spot on the planet, but that's the whole challenge that I have put on myself shooting these educational videos there. The way I see it, if I can produce solid images in what is simply the most convenient (and decidedly average) location, I suspect I'd be able to do even better in amazing outdoor spots the world over, no?
And speaking of outdoor shooting, I know that can be a sore spot for those in super cold, overcast, snow covered climes. Even then, however, you can produce stunning results if you think creatively, and not just give up, when roaming the snowy countryside. As of this article, Dec. 19, 2015, it is 63F and sunny with blue skies in south Texas, so I can't exactly relate. However, I do travel a lot and find myself with outdoor challenges every single time.
And finally, with this quick video also comes some shameless promotion of my new weekly web series in YouTube, dubbed The Backyard + Nino Batista, and I invite you to Subscribe so you can catch every Sunday's episode about lighting, shooting, gear, modeling, fashion, glamour, automotive, landscapes, travel, opinion, rants, interviews with awesome photographers, and tons more.