Open Shade: The Key to Perfect Outdoor Lighting

Using open shade can transform your outdoor photography by providing soft, directional light without the need for complex lighting setups. This technique leverages natural light to create stunning images with minimal equipment, making it a great skill to master.

Coming to you from Mark Wallace, this informative video explains the concept of open shade and demonstrates how to effectively use it for portraiture. Open shade refers to areas shaded from direct sunlight but illuminated by ambient light reflecting off nearby surfaces. This type of lighting creates soft, even illumination with minimal shadows, which is ideal for portrait photography. Wallace showcases this technique on a balcony, utilizing the reflective light from buildings and the sky to enhance his shots.

In the video, Wallace uses his Canon EOS R5 and an 85mm lens to capture portraits of his subject. He starts by positioning her near a white wall to bounce light and create a studio-like effect. Shooting at an aperture of f/2.8 allows for a shallow depth of field, ensuring that she stands out against a softly blurred background. Wallace emphasizes the importance of eye tracking autofocus to keep the subject’s eyes sharp and highlights how the reflections in her eyes add a sparkling effect, enhancing the overall image.

Wallace further explores different setups within the open shade environment. By using a window that reflects the cityscape and sky, he creates interesting catchlights in the model's eyes. He also experiments with shooting towards the bright background, which, when overexposed, creates a dreamy, bokeh-filled backdrop. This method demonstrates the versatility of open shade and how it can be manipulated to produce various lighting effects, all while maintaining a consistent, flattering light on the subject.

One of the key takeaways from Wallace’s demonstration is the importance of understanding and utilizing your surroundings. Open shade can be found in many everyday locations, such as patios, alleys, or the shaded sides of buildings. By recognizing these opportunities, you can capture high-quality images without relying on additional lighting equipment. Wallace’s practical approach highlights how you can achieve professional results with minimal gear, focusing instead on the natural lighting available. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wallace.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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