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Tips & Tricks

Using Available Light For High Fashion Photography (NSFW)

By Brittany Smith on October 5th 2017

Available light has a way of elevating a shot by organically enhancing the mood of the surrounding environment without detracting or disturbing the viewer. This is one of the main reasons that available light is often the first choice among photographers when telling a narrative. Clinton Lubbe with DPHOG gives us an inside look at his approach when working with natural light on location.

[RELATED: Balancing Fill Flash with Available Light | Getting The Lifestyle Look Magazines Love]

It is important to walk around and feel the light on set and keep it feeling as genuine and believable as possible. Determine where the main light source is and decide how it will be utilized to shape the subject in the workspace. Natural light will always work in any given scene and can be slightly altered by reflecting or absorbing it. The challenge is choosing the proper angles that balances the environment with the overall look and feel of the shot.

When shooting in natural light you are in a race against time. The light that inspires the scene in one location will completely change moments later. It is imperative to have an open mind when working with available light because the shoot will most likely not go according to the original vision or inspiration. The ability to adapt and feel the mood provided by the changing light tends to deliver a better product.

Clinton suggests to overpack lighting equipment when shooting on location and bring equipment as a measure of insurance. Sometimes an extra light source is key to balance the unpredictability of the sun. Artificial light can take a genuinely raw image and make it feel manufactured if proper care isn’t taken when balancing the light.

Available light also creates incredible reflections on windows and glass that add extra elements of interest to a shot. The interior must be darker than the exterior in order to properly capture the subject from the inside of the glass. A black cloth can be used to shade off areas as well as the shade naturally provided so long as the subject is framed properly.

The harsh midday light produces specular highlights and incredible shadows. In certain locations it also bounces off the walls and adds depth to the scene. The specular light produced by the descending sun throughout the day can be sculpted to fit your needs in an incredibly beautiful manner. The sky transforms into one massive key light the moment the sun sets completely. Be aware of where the sun sets in the sky as it will provide a light source that is several stops brighter.

Use every last bit of available light throughout the day. Being able to manipulate the available light in any given moment creates immaculate shots.

Brittany is a fashion and beauty photographer who works between NYC, Montana and LA. She photographs the way she has always wanted to feel and believes in the power of raw simplicity. When not behind a camera she can usually be found at a local coffeeshop, teaching fitness classes at the YMCA, or baking something fabulous in the kitchen.
Instagram: @brittanysmithphoto

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