Monday, July 25, 2011

Light for Portrait Photography | The Big Difference

Last week I was providing a lesson on location for two local photographers here on Hilton Head Island. They wanted to know more about lighting for outdoor portraits. We chose Harbor Town (which was packed with the summer tourist crowd) as our location. My model was my daughter, Emma. 

The two images clearly show the difference when it comes to lighting, not only with the source of the light but in time of day as well. The first images was lit using a on-camera flash - in this case the Canon 580ex, with a diffuser. It's nice but it lacks the dramatic effect of a professional portrait at sunset. Next I used the same camera but with the light source off to the side. In this case the light was from an Alien Bees 800 strobe, powered by the AB Vagabond portable battery by Lightgear USA. The light was diffused through an attached translucent umbrella. The only thing I may have changed was to provide a reflector on the other side to fill-in the shadows just a touch on the right side of Emma but the improvement in the quality of the light is clearly evident. 

Another lesson is time of day. There was perhaps 20 minutes between the time of the first and second image. Notice how much the light and color had changed in the background. Outdoor portraits in the summer - especially here in South Carolina - are always going to be best right at sunset and even better for a good half hour afterwards. The key is to provide and direct additional light that is evenly diffused and soft on the subject.

Via Flickr:
Outdoor portrait photography by Jim Crotty on Hilton Head Island noting differences with light as to time and light sources

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