Up to this point my coverage of onelight photography has focused on indoor wedding shooting. One of the areas that is most exciting and dramatic is using this style outdoors. I have mentioned previously that I like to oppose the sun with my flash resulting in dynamic images. I wanted to delve a bit deeper into this area and explain how I go about composing and developing the shot.
Ask any advanced photographer and they will tell you the quality of light is paramount to creating a beautiful image. Terminology such as the “Golden Hour” will be thrown around as well as shooting at sunrise and sunset. Photographers will almost always shy away from shooting in mid-day sunlight. Mid-day sunlight is considered very harsh light and yields heavy dark shadows on subjects resulting in unappealing images. With the onelight philosophy I turn a major disadvantage into an integral component of the image. The harsh light becomes a major component of the image and helps make the shot work.
When I arrive at the location and step into the shooting environment, I begin to analyze the area with respect to the sunlight. My first step is to determine the direction of light, and then coordinate this with an appealing background. I then start to establish placement of the subject (couple), flash and camera. During this process I am also deciding on lens selection and how that will play into the overall planning of the image. Once everything is in place I determine my camera settings to yield a good exposure for the sky and sun. Next is to set the flash power to balance the exposure of the subject with the surrounding scene. This of course is oversimplified to some degree, as there are other adjustments that can be made to the direction and position of the flash, the cone of light it emits, and any light modifiers that may be incorporated to further enhance the image.
From this point I tweak the look through camera settings, flash power, and light position to get the most dramatic image possible. Along with some directing of the subject I am able to attain an image that would otherwise be impossible in such harsh lighting conditions. Of course these principles apply to shooting during the “Golden Hour” as well. As seen in the image below of Stephanie and Jady, I balanced the light and composition with the sunset to create a lovely portrait.
With a systematic approach to the setup I am then able to focus on creativity and developing a beautiful and emotional image. This also allows me to work effectively in harsh outdoor light that would otherwise result in flat unappealing photos.