As we know, shooting in harsh sunlight at midday is a portrait photographers nightmare! But, it can produce a very striking and edgy look thats fantastic. However this particular author lives and works in Northern Ireland – now, most will agree, this is a beautifully scenic part of the world unfortunately though we are not blessed with a lot of sunlight. In fact this year its hard to remember a day when its wasn’t raining!
Hence my project to create a wonderfully hard Mediterranean sunlight effect in the studio! In fact this is a fairly easy task and using the correct modifier can produce excellent results. For my first test I wanted to create a textured wall effect rather than use a seamless paper roll. I purchased a 4′ X 8′ sheet of plasterboard (Drywall) and produced a textured effect by liberally applying Spackling Paste to the board.
I used simply one strobe, a Bowens Gemini 500R and attached a Bowens High Performance reflector as a modifier. I initially placed this approx 45°to the subject. Fortunately my studio space has 15′ high ceilings so it is important to place this light as high as possible to try to create the appearance of midday sun. The modifier and lighting diagram are shown below.
I also wanted to place the subject close to the background to create a dramatic dark shadow. It is also necessary to direct the model, in most cases, to the direction of the light. The first few images we shoot are below.
As you can see we have created a very dramatic sunlight feel with crisp dark shadows. This particular modifier throws out a lot of light so it was set at a very low power setting. The images were processed through the Alien Skin Exposure 7 Photoshop plugin – I love this software as I feel it can produce a cool analog feel to the processing.
For the next set I placed the strobe high & directly in front of the subject. I tried an alternative modifier on this occasion – The Pixapro long Focus reflector. This produced slightly more contrast but there was not a dramatic difference.
After this test shoot with our beautiful model, Reem, we were approached by a cosmetics company that wanted us to shoot a campaign highlighting their makeup and self-tanning products. They loved the look of these images but felt the hard shadows were a little to dramatic. To counter-act this we used the exact same setup but added a small softbox placed directly below the High Performance reflector to help lift the dark shadow areas. The softbox was set at approx 1 stop less power than the Reflector.
The High performance reflector is positioned towards the models face and there is a significant fall off on the body. The softbox has the added effect of illuminating more of the subject and creating a more even lighting pattern.
For these images we placed the model about 5′ from the background and then simply experimented with a few different coloured paper rolls to achieve a sunny bright feel. We finished up with a few headshots all lit exactly the same way. These images were also processed through the Alien Skin software.
And how the images appeared on the companies website.
So, there you go – if you happen to find yourself in Ireland or with no sunlight, at least you can fake it in the studio!!