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When the sunlight is good enough

By Scott Lymath, written 1393611285


When meeting Ross Kitcher (on Purpleport and highly recommended) for some retro styled fashion shots in central Portsmouth, I bought him to a spot that I thought had a complementary back drop – the red bricked buildings providing a not too modern setting and not too distracting. I like uncluttered backgrounds to my images, with the focus being on our subject.

Additionally, the buildings which flank either side of the street are also tall and I thought would therefore make a shady spot for shooting in. Why was I seeking shade? Well, I was unsure of where the sun would be at the time of our shoot and I knew that if I had a shady spot then I could guarantee some nice light through some off-camera flash. This was how I anticipated lighting the shoot.

The main image at the top however was shot with entirely the available light, not one ounce of flash light. It still though has a certain pop to it, which I like. Looking at the shadow under Ross’s nose and the gradient of shadow of light across his face should tell you everything about the direction of where the light was coming from…

The sun just happened to be coming in from the end of the street, nicely diffused by some occasional drifting clouds. This meant the light was quite soft (even at about 1pm) and coming from a good direction. I asked Ross to look into the direction of the light. Perfect and no need to add anything else! The diagram below will give you an idea of the set up.


Camera settings: ISO 200, f/4.0, 1/400

Later on in the shoot the clouds broke and the sunlight was harder. Too hard for someone to look at without squinting heavily so we moved to one of the walls and had Ross turn his back to the sun putting him in ‘open shade’.


This gave a completely different sun drenched look to the image. Camera settings: ISO 200, f/4.0, 1/320.

Additional lighting can be a necessity when the available light is not good enough, or when we want to achieve a certain effect, but its also important to recognise when no other lighting is required. Sometimes the sun is more than good enough!