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Portraits in Sunlight: Redirecting the Sunlight

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In certain instances, I enjoy shooting with the direction of the sun to add vibrancy to a photograph; however, it can be difficult for the model to avoid squinting her eyes when the sun is shining directly in her face.
The trick is to put your subject in the shade and to build the lighting back up in a more flattering manner. To do this, I’ve chosen to go with a simple setup consisting of one light stand, a large 7′ Westcott diffuser umbrella, a Quantum QFlash QFT5d-R, and a Turbo battery. I prefer a Quantum flash because a round flash head will spread more evenly inside the umbrella, and a Turbo battery helps it recycle faster. The larger the umbrella, the more the subject will be in the shade.

 

Portraits in Sunlight: Step One 

To start, I placed my subject, Kaylin, in the sun, but the lighting is too harsh for her to be able to look at the camera without squinting and she’s going to melt from the heat. 

Portraits in Sunlight

JAMES SCHMELZER

Step Two

Since I didn’t have any assistants with me, I used a simple setup. I mounted the large 7′ diffuser umbrella on the light stand and placed it between the sun and the subject, putting her in the shade (diffusing the sun). The 7′ umbrella is large enough to cover a full-length subject as long as she isn’t too tall, and it keeps your subject from getting too hot (this photo shoot was in Las Vegas). Now the lighting is less harsh but it’s too flat. 

Portraits in Sunlight

f/8 at 1/200 with diffuser
JAMES SCHMELZER

Step Three

To build up the lighting and better control the direction, I mounted the Quantum QFlash QFT5d-R on the light stand and aimed the flash to shoot through the umbrella. Shooting through the umbrella is always better than bouncing off because you can get the light source closer to your subject.

Portraits in Sunlight

JAMES SCHMELZER

This technique works great when you want to keep the lighting more natural looking. 

Portraits in Sunlight

f/8 at 1/200 with
diffuser and flash
JAMES SCHMELZER

By keeping your main light in the same direction as the sun, you’ll avoid a fake-looking background. To help the lighting look natural, get the flash off of the camera and use large light sources outside. 

Portraits in Sunlight

Portraits in Sunlight

JAMES SCHMELZER

For more posts on shooting in the sunlight, try this one in the Inspirational Category or this tutorial for food photography in natural light.