In this last post, we will see how to shoot during various times of the day, with and without a flash. The flash involved is not any heavy duty battery powered studio flash, but a simple speedlite. And yes, we are shooting swimsuits, on the lovely beaches of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Before we begin, lets take a quick look at two different ways that you can use the flash in daylight. The first one is as a fill flash, where you keep the integrity of the ambient light, and just use flash to subtly fill up the shadows. The second method is to use a lot of light from the flash, to overpower the ambient light, making it darker(This topic is covered in details here). You can see both the examples in the image below.
The trick to get the perfect fill is that the image should look as if no flash was used. You will know when the fill light is overdone, is when it creates its own shadows in the image. Thats when it starts over powering the ambient light. Another example of fill flash is in the image below. Note that the white base adds more fill on the legs by reflecting the light from the sun.
All the images in this post were lit with an off camera bare flash(where ever flash was used), a Nikon SB700. It could be any other brand of speedlight, or even the more powerful batterypacks, with which you get a lot more control, but at the cost of some heavy duty lugging around.
Okay, lets start with the title image shot from above. This was at around 11:30am, with bright sun above. Bare flash was used at half power just to add a subtle fill in that image. Same in the image below.
Although bare flash creates harsh shadows, there is a technique to make it work during daylight. The trick is, to simply avoid any background behind the model, for the shadow to fall on. In the above case, the background is open skies and water, but if it was a wall, it would get the shadow from the bare flash.
Also shot in the same time, but here without flash, was the image below. I had to put the model in shade to avoid direct sun touching her, as that would create shadows. In the shade, the model is lit evenly with the light reflected from the surrounding white walls and the beige wooden floor. In the image below, I also used a polarizer to darken the skies a bit.
The worst time to shoot during the afternoon is from 1pm to 4pm. If yor really do have to shoot in this time period, you will either need a lot of power from the flash, or shady areas around. Below is an example of such a shady area, where the model was hidden from the sun under the tree, and flash was used to slightly overpower the ambient light.
Around 4:30pm, sunlight is still a bit harsh. One technique I use at this time is, instead of shooting against the sun, I join the slightly toppish sun and throw strong flash from front, to darken the skies and thus, overpower the ambient light. You can make out the direction of the flash, from the strong shadow that overlaps the shadow from the sun, behind the models foot in the image below.
Here is a similar shot where flash was used to make the model stand out from the background.
By 5:30pm, you can use direct sunlight to light your images. Shadows are going to be formed by the sun. You have to make the shadows look good by making the model face the light at all time.
In the image below, even the model is bending down sideways, and looking down, her face is still pointing the source of light, in this case, the sun.
At 6:30pm, is the golden light(time for this may vary in different regions), in which the sun gives a warm golden light just before setting. This is the best light for photography, as the sun is at its softest best. Below is a direct sunlight shot at this time. The shadows, although there, are much softer.
One other thing i love to do at this time is to use the sun as a rim light, and use the flash from the opposite side of the sun as main light.
The golden hour, like the name suggests, lasts not more than an hour, and the sun goes down really fast. At this time flash is a neccesity. This time you can actually overpower the ambient light with a speedlight.
The orange glow n the sky after sunset is also another half an hour affair. You have to have everything planned in advance to make the best use of this time frame.