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umbrella

Pro Tip: The larger the light modifier is, the softer the light will be on your subject in relation to distance from them.

Pro Tip: The larger the light modifier is, the softer the light will be on your subject in relation to distance from them.

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Your camera is at the lowest ISO setting it could possibly organically be at, your shutter speed has hit the maximum setting, and you still want to shoot an image with the lens wide open. The challenge: the sun is way too bright and giving off too much light to let you get anything near a correct exposure.

So how do you shoot the photo? There are three different ways.

The first one is the simplest and least expensive. Try to backlight the subject. Of course, this is tougher if your subject is a flower or your children running around because it means you need to get very low to the ground. But otherwise it’s a solid option.

The second option: use a shoot through umbrella or a translucent reflector to diffuse the sunlight. This will usually kill enough of it to let you get a more balanced exposure. In the case of the umbrella, it can also be used as a fun prop.

The final option: try a variable ND filter–which is what film photographers used to use. These filters let you cut out a specific amount of like that you set them to just by turning them. The quality of these filters has improved so much that it’s bound to not ruin the quality of your image.

Most photographers would prefer to shoot in natural light–but the inherent problem with it has to do with making it look better when taking photos. More often than not, the sun can create lots of harsh shadows unless it’s being diffused by a cloud.

So how do you tame it? Photographer Craig Beckta suggests using a five-in-one reflector and a shoot through umbrella, two of the same items that we strongly recommend. His video below the jump illustrates what shooting with regular sunlight looks like, using tree shadows, a shoot through reflector, golden, white, silver and a shoot through umbrella.

The biggest advantage that Craig doesn’t mention though is that by using a five in one reflector, you make the most of the time available to you and your subject. There are many of photographers who will specifically wait until the golden hour or for a cloudy day. But that means that you only have such a narrow shooting time, which can limit you when a possible schedule conflict arises.

Craig’s video on Natural Light for Portrait Photos is after the jump. But also be sure to check out our tips on taking the best advantage of natural light, backlighting your portraits, and how to use it during weddings.

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Screenshot taken from the YouTube Video

Screenshot taken from the YouTube Video

Photographer Joel Grimes is really one of the best in the business and he recently teamed up with Westcott to create a special tutorial video on making one light look like two. Joel uses a giant Westcott parabolic umbrella with a front diffusion panel (one of our favorite modifiers to use in our reviews). The interior is silver so it gives off a very punchy light.

Granted, that is a single light, but Joel positions his model against a big white wall and positions the light camera right with the wall camera left. The white wall acts like a giant bounce card that takes the existing light and bounces it back onto the subject to fill in most of the shadows.

It’s a very clever trick–but the positioning of all the elements is key to making it work.

The video on how to make one light look like two is after the jump.

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FINAL-Chris-Gampat-The-Phoblographer-Samsung-50-150mm-f2.8-lens-bec-portraits-(4-of-5)ISO-4001-100-sec-at-f---2.8

Model: Bec Fordyce

Creating the Photograph is an original series where we interview photographers about a photo that they shot and how it was achieved. The results are some knowledge passed on to you. Want to be featured? Email chrisgampat[at]thephoblographer[dot]com.

I LOVE umbrellas–they’re so incredibly versatile and can be used creatively in images with the right ideas. After reading the words of many great photographers, I’ve started to feel that it’s about time for me to step my own photography game up with new ideas and concepts. And so when I called model Bec Fordyce over to shoot image concepts involving umbrellas with a light hidden inside, she was excited about it.

So was I obviously–as the EIC of this site, I don’t get to shoot often for myself. Testing cameras and lenses involves finding a way to not be too creative but still achieving a lovely image at the same time. The site’s philosophy though is to embrace creativity and to not worry too much about what’s done in a lab. Real photographers afterall don’t shoot in a lab. They shoot in real life.

And that’s how the story of “the Windy Umbrella” began.

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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer BounceLite Flash Modifier review (11 of 16)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 1.4

Hot shoe flashes, known as speedlites (or speedlights) are incredibly capable little flashes that can put just the right amount of light in the right spot. While it’s a very well known fact that studio strobes can deliver much more light output, they aren’t as portable or nimble as speedlights. However, there is much more that you can do to get more out of them just by tweaking some settings in your camera or working with it in a different way.

This is how to get more out of your speedlight.

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I have a confession to make: ever since getting involved in the whole strobist world, I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect light modifier. It has lead me down paths to experiment with beauty dishes, softboxes, ring flashes, umbrellas and octabanks. While every light modifier is very capable of doing their own thing very well, I’ve found that umbrellas are the most versatile. And because of this fact, I own four of them.

Umbrellas are great! They give beautiful catchlights in the eyes, can bring out lots of detail in a subject, have a beautiful and inefficient light spread that isn’t really directional but can be made so, and they’re super portable.

And more so than any other light modifier, I believe umbrellas rule them all.

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