I've got a gig tomorrow... no, that's what it's called when you're a musician. I've got a job tomorrow... no, that sounds like I'm a hitman for the mob. Ok, someone is paying me to take pictures of someone else tomorrow... damn, no that makes me sound like a pulp fiction private investigator.
At any rate, I've got to take some portraits. And it's notable in that I've got to shoot this guy outside by the river at 1 o'clock in the afternoon. Now, as any visual person can tell you, the middle of the day is generally considered the worst light of the day. It's direct and it's hard and leads to ugly shadows and causes the subject to squint and a whole host of other annoying problems.
Now, not that good pictures haven't been taken in the middle of the day, but for a guy who likes soft flattering lighting and has a small fetish for a subjects eyes it's definately cause for some thought. (I'm talking about me here in case you were wondering)
There are a few ways to deal with bad light.
#1 Get out of it.
Go find some shade. Under a tree or around the corner of a building or in a doorway. Or go inside and use the outside light coming into the window to good effect.
#2 Overpower it.
Use a light or a strobe to overwhelm the bad ambient light. The low end of this is a boring old on-camera fill flash or even using a reflector to fill the shadows. The hard part here is getting the right ratio between the flash and the sun. Too little and it doesn't help, too much and you might as well have taken the shot in the dark (some people go for this look).When possible, getting the flash off axis from the camera is a good idea. It leads to more natural light (and less red-eye). Diffusing the flash is also a good idea.. Something like one of those Sto-fen things that clicks onto the flash, I use a Lightsphere which does a pretty good job.
#3 Diffuse it.
Speaking of diffusers, my prefered solution is to soften the light. Do the best with what you've got. A 32" foldable diffuser is a great tool. Just stick it between the sun and your subject and ta-da! instant softbox. And if that isn't be enough, they make them 4x6 feet too, to cover a whole body. The main problem with using diffusers outside, especially the big ones, is that they're essentially a big white sail, so if there is any wind they can become a handful, or two if you catch my drift as well as the wind will catch the diffuser.
Tomorrow I'm going to be using all of these and in combination to hopefully get what I want. I've only got a 30 minute window so there are more variables involved than I like, but problem solving is part of the fun right? (or so I keep telling myself).
I'll let you know how it goes.