Photo Tip of the Month – Fill Light To Reduce Contrast in the Mid-Day Sun

You’d be surprised how many people will ask, “Why are you using a flash? There’s plenty of light!”  Here’s how flash can help your mid-day photos.

Wagon of the Old West

A photo of a Wild West wagon, using a fill light to minimize the harsh contrast of the mid-day sun. Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, 18mm ISO 200 F/6.3.

You can’t always shoot photos during the “golden hours” (early morning, just before sunset).  And you may not always want this. Sometimes, you want to capture the look of something at mid-day.  But as anyone who has shot knows, this can create harsh light and harsh contrasts, particularly with subjects that are in the shade, as shown below:

Wagon with no fill light as an example

Our Wild West wagon with no fill light as an example of how mid-day sun can create harsh light and harsh contrasts in photos, particularly with subjects that are partially in the shade. Compare this with the other photo which uses the fill light.

So, what to do?  Use a flash as a fill light.

For this photo, I used a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash in wireless mode.  I placed it down on the ground, just out of frame on the right side, facing up at the wagon, with a Sto-Fen Omni-Bounce OM-600 Flash Diffuser Unit to diffuse the light.  I like to use off-camera flash because I have more control over what area of the subject my flash lights (and if shooting portraits, it’s a great way to avoid getting demonic red eyes!).  Here’s another look at the photo using fill flash:

Wagon of the Old West

Have another look at the photo of a Wild West wagon, using a fill light to minimize the harsh contrast of the mid-day sun.  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens, 18mm ISO 200 F/6.3.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, Nikon 18-200mm VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens, Nikon SB-600 Speedlight, Sto-Fen Flash Diffuser.

 

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Featured Photo: How Black and White Photos Are More Captivating

The Poignancy of Black and White Portraits

Portrait of a Tibetan Man

Portrait of a Tibetan man, originally shot in color but changed to black and white (technically, duotone since it’s tinted slightly, but you’ll give me a pass on our discussion of black and white now, won’t you?).  Although a strong portrait when viewed in color, the photo takes on an added poignancy by eliminating distractions and focusing on the man’s kind visage and the lifetime of events seemingly etched on his face. Naturally, as discussed in a previous blog, I focused on the eyes.

There’s simply some times when an image feels stronger in black and white.  Not everyone feels this way.  Some feel it’s limiting.

But there are times in which a black and white photo can be more captivating, poignant, and emotional than its color counterpart.  Black and white photos can refocus the attention on the subject by eliminating colors that may serve to distract more than enhance. By eliminating colors, black and white photography can place added emphasis on shape, form, texture, contrast or pattern.

With digital photography, one may not even have to “think” in black and white when photographing, although I do feel this is a fantastic exercise in strengthening one’s awareness and appreciation of shape, form, texture, contrast or patterns.  Or even lighting.  Try experimenting with the monochrome settings in your camera so you can receive instant feedback in your LCD screen.  If you shoot in RAW, you can even switch your image back to color.

Or if working in an image editor such as Photoshop, try viewing the image in black and white.  As with all photography, lighting and composition and attention to form all still matter, and in some instances, perhaps more so.

Earlier blog about focusing on the eyes.

Equipment:  Nikon D90, 18-200mm VR Nikkor lens

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Nikon D90 12.3MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)

Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G AF-S ED VR II Nikkor Telephoto Zoom Lens for Nikon DX-Format Digital SLR Cameras

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