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Tips & Tricks

Easy Outdoor Portrait Photography: Backlit, Shade & Direct Sun

By Kishore Sawh on June 3rd 2017

We’re drowning in imagery today. It’s up to our chins and we’re saturated through and through, and with that much of it there’s a lot of crap, and perhaps more intimidatingly or prohibitively, a lot of good work. With so much being shared, and with the outlets that share them being algorithmically tailored, we are mostly exposed to popular imagery, to the point the popular and ‘good’ are what’s common. This is when many are inclined to mistake what we perceive as common for being easy, and that’s where a critical problem creeps in.

For those starting out, taking imagery as described above can either appear easy until it’s tried (which leads to disappointment and backtracking), or seem too daunting to try. I know anyone who has ever bought a speedlite or strobe will know what I’m on about; those initial moments when you get your first light, head bursting with dreams of the images you’ll make only to be immediately dashed upon using it for the first few times because your shots are just hideous.

Luckily for many of you in this hesitant spot, however, your desire is not to become a strobist/off-camera flash aficionado, but rather someone who shoots well using natural light, which happens to be what’s quite popular and common. In the video below, Jessica Kobeissi does a good job showing addressing this style directly, showing a few different ways to handle shooting a model/subject in an imperfect location and using shade, direct sun, and backlight.

We’ve covered a few of Jessica’s posts before; she’s a young photographer based out of Detroit, Michigan, who has a unique and unabashed approach to her teaching and shooting style which is much less a clinical approach than a practical guide. Here she uses an old Canon 5D Mark II and a 50mm 1.2L lens to take you through how she shoots in the conditions addressed above. You get a glimpse of how different camera angles affect the look of the subject, how sun placement affects everything, and if you’re keen you’ll pick up on how her ease of self makes for good interaction with the models.

If you don’t have a Canon 5D or other full frame camera nor the $1,500 50mm 1.2L, do not fear. Really, you can use pretty much any body for this, and if you’re looking for good alternate 50mm lenses, check out either of the two here:

Gear Used:

Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L USM Lens

Gear Alternatives:

Canon EOS 77D

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF

You can find more from Jessica on her YouTube channel, and her site, and these past posts below:

PORTRAIT CHALLENGE | 4 PHOTOGRAPHERS SHOOTING CANON & NIKON & ONE MODEL

PORTRAIT CHALLENGE | 3 YOUNG PHOTOGRAPHERS WITH SOME PRETTY CANON L GLASS & ONE MODEL

Terms: #Backlight
About

A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

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