Photog Friday – Take Better Pictures using Shade

Okay okay … I know it’s not actually Friday.  But in my head, I’m always on time, prompt, and meet all of my own deadlines.  So, let’s just go with it and pretend that I didn’t miss my Friday post deadline, K?!!  Besides, Photog Friday sounds way better than Photog Saturday anyway!

Today’s Photog Friday is all about taking better pictures in the shade.  This is one of the first techniques I learned as a natural light photographer.  Shade can be one of your best friends if you shoot outdoors and especially if you are photographing people.   Shade can give you smoothe even lighting and helps you avoid bright spots and harsh shadows on your subject’s face.

The trick is to find and use the right shade.  The best type of shade is called “open shade.”   Open shade is the place where light and shade meet to create an evenly lit space.  You can find open shade by looking for that line between the shade and the light, then placing your subject completely in the shade – but FACING the light!

Think porches, walls, buildings, alleyways, overhangs … anywhere there is complete shade right next to strong light.

Let’s compare a few images I took recently to give you a better idea  …

For the image on the right, I placed Cole in the shade of a tree.  But, see all the spots on his face and his shirt?  This is called dappled light (fancy word, huh?) and can happen when you place a subject under a tree.  If the tree is not dense or thick enough, bits of light will peek through and make spots all over your subject.  Not cool.

On the right, I took a photo of Cole in full sun … see how intense the shadows are?  Too much contrast in all the wrong places.  There is definitely a time and place for full sun shots and you can make them work … but this is a great example of when it doesn’t work.  For sure!

Now let’s look at a couple images I took using open shade.

Awww … so cute!  But here’s what went right and what went wrong.

On the image on the left, I placed Bryce in the shade, but too far away from the source of light (the sun).  I still got great light in his eyes, but had problems with his skin tones because there was just not enough light bouncing onto his face.  See how his skin looks kinda red and magenta?  I also had a problem because I placed him next to a red door … oops!

The image on the left was taken under an overhang and I placed the kiddos right next to the edge of the light.  The shade gave me very even lighting and the sunlight bounced right off the ground next to them.  Their skin tones were almost perfect and I had very little to edit.  Yea!

One last tip.  Shooting in the shade does produce images that have a bit of a blueish tone.  This can be solved a few different ways, one of which is to change the white balance setting on your camera.  My camera does great on Auto White Balance and changing it with each shot is just one more thing for me to think about.  So, I choose to just warm the image up a bit in Photoshop.  Always so much better!

I hope this helps!  Now … go and try it out for yourselves and let me know how it turns out!  Or, let me know if you have any questions!  This is way fun for me and I’m always glad to share my tips!


PS.  If you like what you see and what you’re learning … don’t forget to head on over to ‘Like’ my FB Fan Page!

by bethany

show hide 3 comments

Adrianne BreesMarch 28, 2011 - 9:26 am

So when shooting in shade, you put your subject right on the shade edge, facing the light, and you stand outside the shade in the light facing the subject, yes?

BethanyMarch 31, 2011 - 9:47 am

You got it Adri!

Jesse HakeMay 18, 2011 - 1:12 pm

Natural lighting is always, ALWAYS better! But your dappled, contrast, and toned shots look cool, too. Maybe there are better ways to use the techniques, but the kids’ smiles look more lively in those three. You may have edited your last one less, but it doesn’t have an edge to it. What do you think?

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