Saturday, January 29, 2011

Rachael, post-run, and a lesson on light, 29/365

I was hoping to get out today and shoot a nice landscape picture.  But, it was heavy overcast all day, a grey, blah day.  But, this is the kind of day that portrait photographers love.  More on that below the picture.  Here is a shot of Rachael after an 8 mile run.  She hardly looks like she just did a pretty long run, and said she felt like she could have gone farther.

Now, how about a little lesson on light.  Have you ever noticed that on a cloudy, overcast day, there are no shadows?  And on the other side of the spectrum, on a bright, sunny day, there are very harsh shadows with hard edges, and everything is very contrasty with some super bright areas and other areas very dark?  Well, that is the reason that cloudy days make portrait photographers happy.  

On an overcast day, the face lights up more evenly without the high contrast, the skin is softer, blemishes and pores in the skin don't stand out like a sore thumb.  (With portraits, softer is generally better than really sharp details.)  And WHY is the light like this, you ask?  Read on...

Harsh shadows are caused by having a small light source.  It doesn't matter if that small light source is the bright sun on a clear day(yes, it's a "small" light source, because its' so far away), your camera's flash, a single light bulb, etc.  That small light source will create hard shadows.  Now, how does that apply to taking pictures outside on a cloudy day?  Well, sure, your light is still all coming from the same sun, just like on the sunny day.  But, it is being diffused by the clouds.  Essentially, that diffusion turns the small light source of the sun, into a huge light source, namely, the ENTIRE SKY!  It's the same effect as when you are in a portrait studio and they shoot their flash (small light source) through a light box or umbrella (bigger light source) to soften the light.  (The light is hitting your subject from a larger source, making it less directional.)  So, there you go.  Try taking portraits outside on a cloudy day.  You'll have softer, more even light, no one will be squinting, and you won't have to try to find shade to shoot in.

In case you would like a little more detail on this particular image, yes, she really just walked in to the driveway after running 8 miles.  I shot this with a Canon 50d and 50 f/1.4 lens, at f/2.2 to throw the background out of focus.  I had her stand about 6 feet in front of my garage door, which would have been pretty ugly if I hadn't thrown it out of focus with a big aperture.  I also did take a piece of foam board out and had her hold it just under the bottom of the picture.  This was to bounce a little light up into the eye sockets.  That's about it, pretty simple shot really.  There was no exposure or sharpness adjustment done in post processing.  I'm sure Rachael will yell at me for not Photoshoping out those stray hairs, but she was supposed to look like she just ran 8 miles!  :-)

Comments and/or questions are welcome...

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