lesson | a quickie “To-Do List” for hard light shooting with Robyn Chubey
April 3, 2018
Hard light is one of the most under-appreciated lighting scenarios for photographers, and for good reason. It is definitely trickier, and employed ineffectively, easily produces unappealing images.
Some issues that photographers run into with hard-light situations are over-saturated colors, unwanted color casts, increase in contrast between hard shadows and bright highlights, and dappled light falling in an intrusive way.
Luckily, there are a lot of great ways to use hard light to your advantage, by employing some simple strategies. Here are three of my top techniques for shooting in hard light.
1. This is my favorite hard light technique because it’s the easiest to roll with in any situation: Shoot with the sun at your back, and position the subject either totally from the side, totally from the back, or totally from the front. This means positioning yourself so the sun is hitting directly onto your subject, and not at an angle. This creates the maximum amount of light hitting the area with the least amount of side angle shadows to fall harshly on your subject (like for example, the angles noses make). Here I recommend slightly under-exposing metering on any visible skin, as it is a highly reflective surface and you don’t want the skin blown out.
2. For busy shadowed large dappled light (the kind that trees make), you can either find a space that’s totally lit with no dappling and completely face your subject to the light, exposing for the skin.
Or you can find a place of shade with no dappling with the light to your subjects back and slightly under-expose for the subject.
3. Find a great shaded area where the sun may be peeking either through or around something (I find thick trees are great to find a spot under), then dial you aperture to f|16 or higher and crank that ISO to balance it slightly under-exposing for the subject (skin preferably if visible) and get some great sunbursts!
The obvious thing to try and do is to position your subject(s) facing you with the light at their back and expose for the subject, but this often will mean blown skies, or missed shots because hey – the sun just isn’t always easy to put behind the subject with the background you want behind the subject!
Learning how to embrace hard light will bring dimension and variety to your portfolio, as well as open up a lot of fabulous shooting opportunities.