With apologies to Gerry and the Pacemakers (Merseysiders whose 1964 release “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” got me through some tough break-ups in middle and high school) comes another confession: I do some commercial work. Yes, it’s not all exotic landscapes and cultural documentary in my biz….sometimes it’s shiny, happy people having fun on behalf of the tourism industry.
I say this without apology as I enjoy the challenges of commercial work, and I appreciate the patronage of clients like Philadelphia tourism who have helped me pay my mortgage and educate my kids….but I digress. Why does this lovely couple look sparkly and yet are not squinting? There’s bright, harsh, late afternoon sun all around them.
It’s from a shoot at a winery in the Philly area. And I don’t just have this couple to photograph. No, Philly is an inclusive place, so when you do a shoot like this, you’ve got a half dozen couples of all ages, ethnicities, and lifestyle preferences. You shoot one couple, pull ’em out, and then insert the next demographic. It’s a buzz to say the least. So you’ve got to have quick simple setups that solve problems….like harsh sunlight on happy faces.
The trick is to set something up to gobo (“go between”) the sun and the subjects that’s translucent enough to let some light in, but softens the harshness. In this case, it was a 72″ Impact 5 in 1 reflector with the translucent surface clamped to a lightstand. That’s only step one of the process. If all you do is gobo the sun with a diffuser, you’ve lost the brightness (see the smaller picture below). That’s an outtake for two reasons: one, the young lady is just cracking up too much (what can I say, I tell really good jokes!), and two, everything else around the couple is getting a full whack of sunlight, so the exposure on them is too deep.
So I pumped in some flash from an SB 800 bounced into an umbrella placed off to the side to mimic the same direction as the sun. Don’t ask me what the setting was, I forget. I think it might have been -.7 but you just take a shot, check your LCD and histogram, and make the needed adjustments. As you can see in the second shot, the one with the flash, the light is still soft, but now the volume of light is closer to that of the surroundings and it makes the couple “pop” a bit.
So don’t let the sun catch you crying; just diffuse it, then fill in with some soft flash!