Sunlight As Your Keylight

There is a cardinal rule in photography that newbies don't understand yet (and I was just as guilty): Direct sunlight on someone's face is a big no-no. Eventually you learn to place someone with the sun hitting the back of your subjects' heads. After that you learn to use a reflector board (white art board from the hobby store is great and flat and isn't a pain to find the sweet spot like you do with those floppy reflector discs) to reflect that sunshine back on their face because it's diffusing (reducing the harshness) direct sunlight. Beyond reflecting sunlight you can get even more dramatic results with lighting a face with a flash or strobe diffused through a soft box but that's another discussion.

But having said all that, rules are made to be broken in the right circumstance. With Jen, I broke the rule on this pic. I noticed the quality of the sun where we were and that it was just a nice quality - it wasn't overcast but it is February so perhaps the sunlight was softer due to it's position due to the season? I don't know. It wasn't the golden hour either - more like 2pm.

My point is that as a photographer you should pay attention to everything and in this case I felt the conditions were right to use the sun as my key light and I could see that her face could handle this direct sunlight (there is no rule here either - I've seen people in person and thought about how their face may take my lighting and been surprised both ways either how their face took my lighting and on the other hand how someone's face did not take the light).


I don't have a light meter. There is a meter inside the viewfinder but I find those readings don't give me the results I want sometimes so I typically start with the readings and the adjust shutter and f/stop to get what I really like. It's trial and error usually.

The next image of Jen shows how I've am using the sun as a rim light. The sun is camera right slightly behind her head and you can see that on her hair. My assistant had a beauty dish camera left with just a 30 degree grid pointed toward her face. I could have used a reflector board for fill on her face but I wanted to have a bit of an urban feel and since we were using the chain link fence the beauty dish would give the whole image just the right look.

Civil War Reenactors

In a recent blog post I wrote about shooting a project for the Alabama Division of Civil War Reeanctors in conjunction with a local ad agency. I really was impressed with each person's knowledge about the civil war (trust me they know a lot!) and I was drawn to the visual interest of their world and uniforms.

After Scotty was our soldier turned-to-stone via Photoshop I asked him about coming to one of their reenactments to get portraits for my own personal project. He agreed so one early October morning my son (cheap assistant) and I drove out and met a few of Scotty's friends and was able to get some really memorable images. I hope you enjoy them in color as much as I do.

IMS Ad Shoot










Recently, I have been shooting ads for a local company with a young and energetic internal marketing group with bright ideas and a vivid vision for their company's marketing strategy. I thoroughly enjoy shooting with them because they don't take themselves too seriously and they bring donuts and coffee when we are shooting with a 6am start time!

Last week we were shooting a concept or two in a restaurant.  I like to put people in place of the real subjects so I thought why not use the company marketing team? Lucas and Megan are both great to oblige any ideas or suggestions I have for their ideas in order to make them work better or to show them how something may not work. I think this is key to being a good photographer because communication can easily run a project into the ditch where nobody is enjoying themselves. 

Of course, I cannot release the images from the shoot because they are not finished nor published but I wished to share a bit of the fun I try to have with clients.



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