by Scott Stulberg
One of my favorite light sources for shooting people is one that many people don’t really think about too often. Open shade more often than not, can produce beautiful light that can make the skin incredibly soft and even seem to glow.. Many times, the light can mimic nice studio lighting and it is one of the easiest light sources to shoot with.
Open shade is found just inside where the sunlight stops hitting the subject…under a tree is usually a good place to find open shade…..on the side of a building…..anywhere where you can see that the sunlight is not hitting the subject directly. It is right where the shadow and sunlight meet on the ground. The photographer can be in full sun if they want as long as the subject is just outside of the sunlight, and in the shade. This means that you can photograph at almost any time of day and not have to worry that it isn’t early morning or late afternoon light, which is usually the nicest time of day to shoot in. Sunrise and sunset lighting give you the nice warm glow on the face, because of the low angle of the sun and the way it is diffused through the atmosphere at that low angle. But to get that similar feeling while shooting in open shade, all you need to do is use a soft / gold reflector to bounce light back in on your subject to give them that soft sunlight feeling. By doing this technique, you can shoot anytime of the day and get soft light from open shade on your subject and also bring in some beautiful warmth of the sun from the reflector to brighten up the face even more.
The results can be pretty amazing and in my Eye to Eye: Capturing the Face class here at Better Photo, I am constantly surprised by the beautiful open shade shots that my students send in so often.
The following shot is one I took a week ago of my friend Lucinda in open shade with her brother holding the reflector not in front of her but behind her to the side to reflect the light on her hair. I wanted to bring some beautiful sunlight to her hair which was missing in the open shade, so I showed him how to move to a spot where there was some sunlight poking through the trees to bounce onto the back of her hair. All of the hair on the left side of her head is from the reflector bouncing it back in. I took this shot in a parking lot…. I shot her in close with my 50mm macro lens and the aperture was f 2.5. I use a macro all the time for nice face shots……but I will talk more about that in another blog…….
Open shade can give you gorgeous shots all the time…..and bringing along a reflector gives you even more possibilities!