Ever wonder how to shoot great outdoor headshots on a sunny day? Most headshot photographers worry when there is sun because of the harsh shadows and overexposed highlights you get. But then most amateur photographers believe sunny days are great for photography! Well, both viewpoints have their merits.
It is true that sun causes harsh shadows and overexposed areas, especially if you don't know how to control the light. But, as most people say, a sunny day is beautiful. And an experienced headshot photographer would tell you it provides a much wider variety of choices to make and wonderful headshots to capture. The key is to know how to control your light.
The quickest fix for a sunny day shoot is not to reschedule. Just shoot in the shade; it will give you very soft lighting, and as long as you don't show the sunlight in the background of the headshot, you shouldn't have too many overexposed areas. But this isn't as deep as the rabbit hold goes...
Shooting headshots in the shade is great if you have no bounce boards or assistant or flash, but there are many other options outside of the shade as well. First of all there is the great bounce board, a wonderful invention almost as useful as the wheel, and even more useful than sliced bread. If you have a friend help out on the shoot day, you can take your headshot client anywhere in the bright sunlight. Just use the bounce board to fill in those harsh shadows and your client will look beautiful. Try to position the headshot client so the sun is coming over their shoulder. Then light up the front of their face with the board. The will create a beautiful soft light on their face, and a great hair light to accent the edges of their face. That's what a single bounce board can do.
Another useful tool to have in the kit is an ND (neutral density) filter. An ND filter works by simply cutting down the amount of light that enters the camera. Basically it makes the headshot darker, and the camera compensates by slowing the shutter speed or opening the aperture (or increasing ISO).
Now obviously we don't want to increase ISO because noise increases, but we actually want to slow the shutter speed or open the aperture, and we can't do that in bright sunlight without over exposing. Enter the ND filter. With an ND filter you can do motion blur effects, shallow depth of field, and use fill flash outdoors with a wide aperture.
The issue with fill flash in outdoor headshots is that there is a sync speed problem on most SLR cameras, meaning the shutter speed can't be higher than 1/250 or so before the flash and shutter would be out of sync. So because of this, when the flash is going to be used, you cannot take a picture at a faster shutter speed than that. And what does this mean? When you should be taking an outdoor wide aperture shot at 1/4000, but you change it to 1/250, suddenly enormous overexposure is seen! Again, enter the ND filter.
ND filters and Bounce boards are your most useful tools for outdoor headshot sessions. They are worth the <$15 investment.
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