Like most things in life, the good stuff ain’t handed to you. Often times, you have to get what you have and make it work.
Shooting weddings and engagement sessions in California is beautiful and lovely. However, there are also times when the sun—much like a temperamental child—is uncooperative and unwilling to throw you a bone with you’re in a pinch. Whenever this occurs, I immediately do one thing:
LOOK FOR NATURAL REFLECTORS.
I shoot my clients without the use of flash or reflectors, but I’m always in search of nature’s way helping a sistah out. This is made easier when I photograph in urban areas because tall buildings are comprised of reflective glass. I try to place my subject in an evenly shaded area, but in the path of the reflected light.
Please forgive the elementary diagram, but I think it aptly shows what I’m talking about. By taking the extra time to truly assess the environment, I’m gaining a better understanding of where the sun is settling in the sky. Here’s a recent example of a photo where reflective light from a nearby building served as a lovely light source:
The subject was about 100 yards from the building, but it provided just enough golden light to cast a favorable glow.
The same ideology applies when shooting in earthy environments as well. I’m always on the hunt for a white/beige wall with the sun shining directly on it. I then place the subjects perpendicular to the wall so the reflected light is favorably pushed in their direction.
Again, three cheers for me not pursuing a career in drawing! However, I am including such diagrams to show exactly how you can use white walls as natural reflectors. Here’s an example of an engagement session where I used a neighboring beige wall to create a warm, natural glow without placing the subjects in direct light:
The subjects were about five feet from the wall, but if I wanted more light on their faces, I would have moved them closer to it.
In one last example, I want to stress the importance of natural reflectors when shooting in harsh light. I prefer shooting subjects backlit, but if the sun is too high or too bright, I look for natural reflectors instead of facing the subjects toward the sun. I do this because I think direct sun in midday is quite unflattering and squint-inducing. In the following example, the sun was both harsh and too high for the subjects to be backlit, so I improvised. Since open shade wasn’t available, I placed the subjects in such a way that a nearby white wall illuminated their faces. Here’s the final product:
Sure, I could’ve scrapped shooting at this location, but I’m glad I at least tried shooting in way that aptly showed the environment, the vibe, and the clients. The subjects where about two or three feet from the white wall because I wanted the light to pop their skin as much as possible.
Again, most things in life are sweeter when you have to work at making things work. When you discover natural reflectors, you’ll see your work take on a new shape and give you the confidence to take a harsh situation and make it into something you’re proud to show your clients.
© Jasmine Star