Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Shooting A Model Into the Sun

OK, it's a perfect day, we have a beautiful model, the assistants were all on time, all of the gear is accounted for, so, what could possibly go wrong? Well, within minutes, it looked like it was going to rain, so all of the gear needed to be moved under cover, and then back again, again and again. Suddenly, the clouds broke and the West sky was filled with wonderful clouds. Let the fun begin.
I have always said being a photographer means being a problem solver. And so it was. Here I am, shooting into the sun, trying to meter as the sun moves behind thick clouds, thin clouds, dark clouds, and then to full sun. You get the picture, it was a metering nightmare.
The biggest issue was the changing background light, in this case being the sun, which can easily be solved by changing the front light with it. It's all about balance. I set the camera meter on Matrix, or full screen mode, because I wanted to get the background light set, thinking I can always turn the front light up or down with the use of flash or reflectors.
For this shoot, I set my camera to aperture priority, because I wanted to pick the aperture setting and have the camera adjust the shutter speed as needed. Picking the aperture and letting the camera pick the shutter speed would insure proper lighting for the background, so at least one obstacle is out of the way. I used an aperture of F19 because I wanted to have detail in the sky, as well as having a sharp model.
With my camera set, I fired off the first few shots and saw that the model was too dark. I needed a tremendous amount of light to fill the model against the brilliant backdrop, although I liked the background of the image. (See 2nd image).
I love the 5-in 1 reflector kits and use them in every shoot. I pulled out the 6-footer to blast light into the front of the model. I used the gold side to give the model a glowing skin tone. However, the shutter speed assigned by the aperture priority was 1/60, and I was hand holding the camera, and as you can see, the image was not sharp. (See 3rd image) The image was not at all what I had in my mind, but we were getting closer. To overcome the lack of sharpness, I mounted my flash onto the hot shoe of the camera and fired it up. The flash did a wonderful job of stopping the motion, but the model was still a touch too dark. I was using a flash and a 6-foot reflector and still needed more light. How do I come up with more light? I changed the output on the flash to its highest setting, which was + 3 stops. Wow, it was amazing how much light was coming out of the flash! The model was sharp and bright, and the background was in balance.
With the lighting set, I took several pictures until I felt I had the shot. Next, I took the Ipod prop from the model and handed her a toy bubble maker. She began to blow bubbles, and I fired another round of pictures. Luckily, the lighting held for a few minutes and I was able to get what I was after. (See photo at left)
After the shoot was over, I returned to my desk to edit the shots and found very little needed to be done to the images in Photoshop. I set the black and white points with a MacBeth Color Chart, and did a touch of high pass filter for sharpening purposes.
This particular shoot yielded about 10-12 shots and lasted about 2.5 hours. Its funny how the first 2 hours of the shoot was spent overcoming the weather and the lighting conditions, and the actual shooting took place the last 15 minutes of the shoot. But, isn't that the way it usually goes?