Photo 101: Open Shade is Your Friend

When you’re shooting outdoors it can be hard to find good light. Most of the time the sun is shining overhead and that light is hard, unflattering, and casts some nasty shadows. Not to mention that you’ll be lucky to get your subject to hold their eyes open long enough to get a decent shot.

So how do you remedy this? Well, if you don’t have a ton of money to spend on a huge silk (I certainly don’t) then your best bet is to find some open shade. Remember that tree location that my wife scouted for me last week? I went out there yesterday with my family to check it out for myself. No flashes, no softboxes, just the camera. It was an overcast day in San Diego anyway but this tree location really rocked because it is like a natural canopy providing lots of open shade.

Open shade will give you a much softer, window-like kind of light that is simply awesome to shoot in. One thing to keep in mind is if you’re in a location like this and it happens to be a bright, sunny day out be sure to watch out for dappled light on your subject. Dappled light is where you have a combination of hard and soft light falling on your subject. It’s ugly! Avoid it like the plague.

I shot the image above with my D90, Nikon 16-85mm VR lens, at f 5.6, 1/30th, 85mm, ISO 200. I had VR on to help ensure that I got a sharp shot. Also, another trick I used was to set my camera to shoot in Continuous Mode and let the shutter fly a few times. When you’re hand-holding at slow shutter speeds, this will help you get a sharper shot. If you shoot five you’re much more likely to have one be sharp than you are if you’re shooting them one at a time. And with digital, the film’s free!

That’s my tutorial for this Monday. I hope you’ve enjoyed it and come back again this week for more great photo tips and news!


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