Learning to find the perfect light is something that takes time and experience. But what do you do when the perfect light isn't there? Shooting in hard sunlight isn't always the most flattering or ideal situation. Don't settle for less than ideal results, bad light doesn't have to mean bad images. In this tutorial you'll learn how to defeat hard light by scrimming and lighting to completely reset your lighting conditions and take control of your shoot.
This I week had a chance to take one of my photography classes out on a really beautiful and sunny February day. They are in the midst of learning how to use their 5-in-1 reflectors to modify lighting conditions, but I decided to take things one step further.
1.) First, we shoot the natural light in order to see what we are dealing with. In the image below we can see the available light. There is no modification to the light here at all. The sun is high and camera left. It was approximately 1 p.m. when this shot was taken.
2.) Here we see the dramatic shift of simply scrimming the light. By scrimming I am referring to using a piece of diffusion material that blocks and softens the light. The quality of a light source is determined by the last thing it travels through. So even though the the actual light is coming from the sun (a hard pin-light source), it is now being modified by a large piece of diffusion material that is placed fairly close to the subject, creating a very soft light.
3.) Now we have added an artificial light source. We have pointed a Profoto D1 Head with no modifier directly onto our subject. This controlled hard light is something that can work in certain styles and genres of photography, and provides a hard, edgy look.
4.) Next we are modifying our strobe light source with a Medium Westcott Apollo softbox. By balancing the exposure, we are able to maintain a naturally lit appearance. By placing the Apollo softbox over the Profoto, the light source goes from a hard light to a soft light.
5.) Then we decided to see how things would look if we placed our strobe on the side of the subject, coming from the opposite direction of our scrimmed sunlight. For comparison sake, the strobe in the image below is unmodified.
6.) Now our strobe, still placed slightly behind the subject, is being modified with another scrim identical to the one diffusing the sunlight. This demonstrates the importance of placement of the side light. Here, only the front half of the panel is actually lighting the subject. We then moved the scrim so the entirety of its surface can see and light our subject.
7.) In this image you can see the effect of bringing the panel forward so that the light can wrap around and light more of our subject, bringing more light to the front of our subject's face.
8.) Finally, we increased the power from our strobe (camera right being diffused by the second scrim). By increasing the power, we have altered the balance between natural light and strobe light, providing a slightly different look.
Sometimes that hard direct sunlight look is exactly what you're looking for, but when it's not, don't be intimidated. By using a large scrim or even a smaller diffuser, you can turn that hard sunlight into a beautiful giant softbox.