Wedding & Portraiture
More Simple Lighting Techniques For Photography Outdoors

Photo 1.
Photos © 2000, Monte Zucker, All Rights Reserved

Editor's Note: Last month we accompanied Monte to Sarasota, Florida, where he was making a new series of videotapes. Monte took us to the Ringling Museum and a local Greek Orthodox church to show us his methods of lighting outdoors. This month we are back in Sarasota, at the church and the beach, to pick up where we left off.

When I added JJ to the portrait, I turned Danielle around to put her into a feminine pose, kneeled him down beside her and made another exposure. I was on a roll! This time, however, I had them facing the camera (rather than the 2/3 view that I had just done of Danielle) and so only 1/2 of their faces were lit by the light coming off the reflector. This suggested to me right away that I should bring in the bare bulb two f/stops under the ambient light (Photo 1)-look how beautifully it all worked out.

Photo 2.

Finally, using the same technique of split lighting with the flash added, I went back to my old standby of putting her on top of him and came up with this last shot of this series (Photo 2).

Before I left the area I took JJ over to one of the openings where the wall extended out from the archway. I had photographed him there before and knew the spot was perfect. This time, however, I once again put my reflector outside into the direct sunlight and brought that kicker light onto the left edge of his face.

Photo 3.

So, here you have it (Photo 3). Split lighting from the open area through the arch. Highlight on his cheek from the silver reflector out in the bright sunshine and a bare bulb to his left to help wrap the light around onto the right side of his face. Three different light sources, plus the wall behind him throwing light back onto the right side of his face. Whew! All that at once! And look how simple it was.

We ended our day at the beach. I don't know what I ever did before moving to Florida-I love taking family portraits on the beach. It's helped me so much in developing a style of photographing in all kinds of light.

One of my favorite techniques is working in bright sunlight. I first find a place where I can sidelight people, while keeping the camera at a low position so that I can photograph into the sky for a background. I've developed my own favorite spots at all the beaches in the neighborhood-usually where there are small sand dunes. I set my camera up in a depression below them.

Photo 4.

In these family groups I always try to get some direct sunshine on each of the faces. Thus, I have to position the family members at slightly different distances from the camera, as I've done in Photo 4.

Although I have a plan for building these family groups, I don't really have a plan. By that I mean, I'll usually start by posing the mother, then add the father, slightly higher. Next, I try to find places and ways to pose the children, so that they are leaning onto their parents; I position them wherever they seem to fit in best. No special order.

In a beach scene like this, certainly there is light being reflected from all around by the sand. Still, I always add a strong flash just out of camera range to open up the shadowed side of their faces and bring the light on their faces up to the strength of the light on the background. Exposure for these types of pictures in bright sun is usually around 1/125 at f/16. So, the flash needs to be close to f/16, too. A little less works just as well.

Photo 5.

My style of casual family portraiture, as you must have figured out by now, is to group all the family members and have them leaning onto each other and reaching out to each other. Sort of tells the ideal story, doesn't it?

Yes, Danielle and JJ were at the beach with us, too. Patient and as fun as ever. Talk about people always ready, always happy. This is a one-in-a-million pair of models!

By this time the sun was starting to set. They could actually look almost into the direct sun, so I used the sun as the main light for them. Without my encouragement, JJ picked her up, piggyback style. "Turn a little more to your left!" I yelled to them. They knew I was going for the 2/3 view of their faces (Photo 5). All natural light.

Photo 6.

I still had both families patiently waiting for whatever I'd suggest next. We had to work fast. By this time the sun was sinking fast. You can see that in the long, blue shadows. The light was so soft, I could easily use the direct light of the setting sun as my main light and not have to worry about using any flash.

The only thing that I considered quickly was the height of the camera, so that I could place my subjects against plain backgrounds-no distracting elements. Both families enjoyed my "professional" pile-up technique (Photos 6 and 7).

Photo 7.

The final pictures of the day-a most exciting day-were made just as the sun hit and went below the horizon. Everyone rolled up their pants and really got into the spirit of the day. In Photo 8 I exposed for the ambient light on their faces and added a flash that equaled the light. One of the photographers rolled up his pants really high and went out into the water to hold the Quantum flash. If you look carefully, you can see slight shadows from the flash on the beach at the right edge of the photo.

Finally, to end the day Danielle and JJ came together again for this last picture. I set the flash to be two f/stops over the ambient light, because I knew that it would darken the sky even more and make a dramatic photograph with which to end the day. I exposed correctly for the flash (Photo 9).

Photo 8.

What a day it was! And just think, I've got all of this on tape. Now, I'm just beginning to edit it all. I have all of these photographs (and more) on tape, live.

I'm not quite sure at this point when this new series of videotapes will be ready, but if you want to be sure to have one of the first copies (at a special introductory rate, of course) I'll have more information available shortly. You can still write me to have me save you one of the first copies (autographed, of course). You know how to reach me:

Photo 9.

Professional technique? These photographs may look pretty casual, but you can see that they are professionally posed and lit, which is why they look so natural.