Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Outdoor sessions in the morning are challenging for a couple of reasons.  First, finding a nice location that has adequate shade and second, working within the limited window of opportunity to use the shade.

Unlike pre-sunset lighting, morning light is good for only a short time and then it just gets worse--it goes to flat, harsh, cold (color temp) light.  However, I needed a morning location for calendar overflow (and days where it's just too hot) when we have all the pre-sunset time slots booked. 

Surprisingly I found a nice location in the common area of our development, only a block from our home!  The grassy area has four large weeping willow trees that make good shade, but during the summer our time frame for that shade is 8:30am to 9:30am and then it's done.

As I've said before in my blogs the problem with doing outdoor portraits isn't that there's too little light--it's that there's too much light!  With morning light that problem is worse since as the sun rises the light increases! So, the obvious answer to this dilemma is to subtract light from one side of the location using a gobo--black flags--to create something other than flat light.
f4.5 @ 1/250 sec ISO 400, Lens @ 200mm
Here Mary is sitting on one of our posing rocks under the shade of the weeping willow at 9:10am.  The gobos are at camera left.  Sky light is illuminating her face as the sun rises behind her.

This is our typical set-up at this location.  Look around those black gobos and you'll see what I'm blocking.  As the sun comes up on camera right it also lights-up that big field on camera left creating a secondary strong light source.  Without my gobos here I would only get flat light.

In this back view you can see the relationship of all the elements in our "set". You can also see that this is no longer a good time for portraits--the sun is now hitting the rock--it's after 11:00 am.

A few weeks later we booked a large group portrait for this same location at 8:30am.  I used the same gobo set-up knowing full well that the results would be less successful on such a large group…

f6.3 @ 1/125 sec, ISO 400, Lens @ 85mm
The gobos work best on individuals and small groups since the closer the gobo is to the subject the more dramatic is its effect.  At least we got the lighting nailed...not quite sure who didn't read the email about clothing... :)

Try out the subtractive natural light technique and show me Your results!

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