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John Denton's Lighting Lab - NatLight Art Sunlight - part 1 of 1 2 3

Published 01/10/2015

By John Denton

It's that time of year again that we laughingly call the summer and we can go out with our cameras and subjects with a blind, and occasionally, rewarded optimism that we won't get drenched with rain or blasted by the wind. Every now and again we get a day of bright sunshine and that can throw us entirely, so for this article I thought I'd rummage around a few techniques for using natural light in all its murky, eye-watering variations.

As regular readers know, my favourite type of available light shot is the headshot. Find yourself a doorway which mutes any hard light, put a reflector under the subject and you get great soft light that flatters your subject. Shot on Pentax 645Z at f2.8

This sort of lighting doesn't just apply to headshots though. On a recent trip south my model, Devon and I, were booked to do a 1-2-1 teaching session at the client's home in Beaconsfield. I love these sessions as it tests my creativity in spotting the light and being able to use someone else's environment to create different looks. On this session we were looking at boudoir styles and pulled a sofa in front of some double doors leading into the garden. The sun on the garden was quite strong but beautifully muted indoors. The reflector wasn't required in this instance as the light bounced off the patio outside and lifted any shadow areas nicely. I shot these using an 85mm lens at f1.8 to give really shallow depth of field. It's a great lens for boudoir, allowing one area to be sharp and then a little detail blurring in the background. In this instance I wanted the eyes sharp and the backside fading off in the background.

From the sofa the next look was a simple change. We moved inside and had Devon stand with her back to the open door. She was still in muted light and the backlighting was just enough to fringe her hair but not totally blow the background. Spot metering comes into it's own in these circumstances allowing you to fill the frame with an area of body, her tummy in this instance, and take your reading off there, being particular to avoid light leaking around the edges of your subject. IMAGE 1/80s ISO200 f1.8.

Another couple of examples of using backlighting in a slightly different way. Here we see Devon sitting in a small corner of the garden, isolating the flowering plants as her background. I positioned her so that the sun creeping around the edge of the house lit the plants and just clipped the top of Dev's hair. It took a little shuffling around to get the right spot which wasn't easy given the proximity of thistles and nettles to Devon's more delicate areas! Again we metered from her body and shot these on my 70-200mm lens to blur the background, even the patches that blew out. IMAGES 1/320s at f2.8 ISO200.

1st Published 01/10/2015
last update 20/07/2022 13:53:43

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