Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Like many professional photographers I prefer to use tried and true outdoor locations where I know I can get the best possible portraits of my clients every time. To do that I want to book my sessions at the time of day when I have the best light for both my subjects and backgrounds on each location. You see, in my style of portraiture, unlike many photographers, I build my portrait settings (wether it’s in the studio or outdoors) from the background forward.   I don’t like, dull, dead backgrounds—I want some visual interest and light in my backgrounds; I’m also a Bokeh lover!

My ideal location for portraits has the setting sun creating backlight in my background at a spot that also has open skylight striking my subject(s) from ONE side; on the other side I want trees or bushes creating shadows for the Subtractive Lighting I prefer for natural looking three dimensionality on my subjects.

So, when we booked this particular session at 6pm, on June 5th, at Kathryn Albertson Park (in Boise, ID) I knew it was going to be challenging. First, the sun sets at 9:25pm in early June here, so 6pm is a little early; I’d prefer 7:30pm as a start time.  Second, when we got there I noticed immediately that the sun was in the wrong spot to be of use in most of my favorite locations!

After trying one of our usual spots with some success my wife suggested we go deeper into the park—maybe try the big Sequoia tree display by the wedding gazebo. I was not thrilled with that spot because the light there was always blocked-up; just flat light. But at this time of day (6:30pm) and this month it was different….
f4.5 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 170mm
I instantly saw we had a nice warm glow on the left hand side of the big log and when we placed this young lady in front of that background we got a nice kicker light on her face giving me the three dimensionality I wanted in this otherwise flat lighting location. Nice!

Here’s a backed-off view of the set-up….
 f4.5 @ 1/250 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 142mm
The lighting and the environment was so nice we put her brother into the scene as well.  As you can see the “kicker light” is being created by the logs on camera left acting as reflectors.  By now it’s about 7pm and I found a nice spot where the setting sun is creating my ideal lighting scenario….
f5.0 @ 1/160 sec., ISO 400; Lens @ 200mm
We have a really nice background glow with backlight that’s also giving us some hair light. Just as important there’s a big patch of clear blue sky, on camera right, giving us soft directional light while on camera left a subtractive lighting effect, created by trees blocking the sky, is providing the shadows on their faces for a nice three dimensional lighting pattern.

It was challenging, but rewarding going out to my favorite park at the wrong time of day of a so-so month. I was forced to look for the light and found some nice new areas for portraits!  I like it that my wife pushes me out of my comfort zone and I find something great!

Until next week….

Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman

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