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Photography Question 
Tracy Smith

When You Must Shoot In Midday Sunlight

I am shooting with another company that contracts for school sports portraits. Sometimes, the schools require that we shoot at 2:00 pm outdoors in the direct sun. I did this for the first time yesterday, only to come home and see these awful images!!
The best angle to shoot the kids meant the kids were looking directly into the sun. Even having the sun come in from the side caused a lot of squinting. So, we shot with the sun above and slightly behind the subject to avoid the squinting.
I shot with a SB-800 Flash for fill on a Nikon D70 with the standard ED short lens. When the sun went behind the clouds, the images were fine. What I didn't know how to balance was flash output, aperture, ISO, and shutter for the best possible results in the worst possible lighting. Any suggestions out there??

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9/17/2005 3:46:59 AM

Occasionally I am confronted with a similar situation when shooting commercial jobs outside. We always overpower the sun with flash. What I mean by that is that your approach, which is fine most of the time, uses the sun as the 'key' or main (more powerful) light and your flash as a 'fill' light. I reverse that order, flash being brighter than the sun. The key theory here is that shutter speed controls ambient (sun) light and aperture controls the flash.
To do this, take your camera and flash off any automatic modes and set them to manual. Start with the camera set on manual and take a meter reading of the kid, or a test subject before the kids arrive so you are ready to go. Let's say the camera says f/8 at 1/250th and the test shot shows exactly the ugly light you describe. Now change the f/stop to f/11 and you are now underexposing the ambient light 1 stop. Turn on the flash and with it on manual, choose a power setting to give you f/11 output. You can also leave it on auto TTL and you should get the correct output. Or turn the flash to manual and set the output for f/11. Experiment with someone, so you have this down before the next job.

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9/17/2005 6:59:19 AM

Tracy Smith   Thanks for the suggestions. I will try it out tomorrow if I am able to stand in the sun after getting cooked in it today!!!

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9/17/2005 4:25:14 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  At 2:00, the sun has an angle to it, especially this time of year, so I always prefer to have the sun as backlight and use a flash.

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9/17/2005 5:51:53 PM

Michelle Ross
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/1/2004
  Gregory .. . do you experience much glare on the lens shooting into the sun?? I use the lens hood but sometimes it seems to still not be enough??

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9/18/2005 7:00:51 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
  no, I'm not talking about sun right outside the angle of view. High sun should only need a lens hood for wide angles. Wider than 28mm. At least for level shooting.

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9/18/2005 11:46:19 PM

Tracy Smith   I shot with the sun as backlight on that day I spoke of in the original question, and didn't have a problem with glare. And I like to shoot with backlight, but I had such a problem with getting the exposure correct for skin tones...a white helmet that was blending in with white pants...and a football field in the background that was not all that green like a well tended football field should be!! I've gotten some suggestions to try though, and hopefully will be able to figure it out!

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9/19/2005 6:18:35 AM

Linda D. Smith   Tracy,
one other thing you can try, if you have a good stand and clamp, or a helper, try putting up a black reflector over and or behind your subject to block out part of the sun, and add a little shade if possible. I have done this and it can make the difference needed to get the eyes with adding flash, that may or may not flatten your subject. And you get to see the results as you are doing it so you can change the position of the board before you take the shot. Takes a few extra minutes sometimes, but can make the difference of a saved or lost shot.

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9/20/2005 11:44:54 AM

Douglas Easton   Going back to the original answer... I work for a small local newspaper that can't afford decent camera equipment. The two photographers (me and someone else) get by using Canon 380EXs. These are obviousley rather old and don't have manual settings on the flash. Is there anyway I can control the flash to get the same effect?

Many thanks,

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9/20/2005 2:57:38 PM

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