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Good day, guys! Your mate, Aries Tao, here. So today, the topic is how to shoot in a less ideal natural light scenario and fix them by flash. You know, one of the most common problems professional photographers need to deal with is midday sun. The reason is that when we shoot for a campaign for a new collection, it's usually 30 to 40 degrees during the day, which means you have to shoot about eight hours. Shooting during golden hours only is not practical, especially when you have a full team of couple models, a makeup artist, a stylist, and a campaign manager.

Dealing with Midday Sun on a Beach

So, I have to shoot during the midday. This is one of the typical scenarios where the sun is directly behind the camera, and light is hitting the model's face. There are some harsh shadows under the nose and under the neck. I will show you how to fix it with a reflector, but it's not ideal. 

One of the reasons is that a reflector is inconsistent light, and it's very hard for the model to open their eyes. No. 2, a reflector is much more painful for constant adjusting on the model's face, and it only fills up the shadow on the face area, and you have to stay relatively close. If you want to use a reflector, you might get it to work with a close-up, but you won't have enough light for a half body or full body because essentially there's no sun to bounce if the sun is behind the camera. 

It's way easier to fix this with off-camera flash. I use AD1200 just because I work with professional models with a faster recycling time. I have this convenience to get the job done more efficiently, but you can absolutely get away with AD300 too. 

Lighting with Sun Behind the Camera

Here, with the sun behind the photographer, right, you can almost see the shadows of the photographer. So, if you raise the light up and high, especially with an umbrella, it's very hard to avoid the shadows in the image. So what I do is put the lights as low as possible. Just imagine it as a reflector to reflect the lights back to the model's face. That way, you create this clamshell lighting with the sun as the top light and a harsh light, but the umbrella or softbox as a soft light source. You see lots of this in the beauty or makeup campaigns. You need 300 watts at least. Sometimes I find myself having a full power from time to time to create fill lights for midday sun.

Recreating Sunlight in a Cave

So, we are very lucky today because it's low tide. This cave only shows a couple of days in a month with very low tide. 

Even that, this is the right timing for the low tide of the day. The sun is way too high because it's almost midday. So what I do here is to use AD1200 Pro to mimic the sun and use AD300Pro as a fill light to bring out the clothing details so that we have much less contrast on the model. 

But we're very lucky because as soon as we finish the shot, the tide already comes up. So, I feel like with flash, it's so convenient because I only have to worry about the best composition or maybe the lowest tide. I don't have to worry about having to shoot this at golden hour, which is impossible in this particular location. 

Shadows with Side Sunlight

Here, you're probably going to see in the video the sun is up and high, and it's coming from the side, which makes a split light on my face. So it's not really ideal in terms of the sun's direction. So, I decide to use AD1200 to fake the sun and to create butterfly lighting, short lighting, or Rembrandt lighting. 

And of course, you can also use AD1200 to create these hairlights if that works for you. And if you are like me and you want a bit more skin details, like you want a bit more shadow details in her skin and her dress, then you probably want to add in another light with an umbrella to fill in the shadows. In this scenario, AD300 is enough. 

Backlighting on Models

Backlight is another common situation we are dealing with, but it's different from golden hours because the sun is pretty high. I use two lights, but you can get away with one, right? You can get away with AD300 plus an umbrella to bring her fill lights. 

And then if you can have another light as a harsh light source to bring the texture that will blend better with the sun because the sun essentially is a harsh light source. This harsh light mixing with soft light sort of technique is commonly used in fashion photography but mostly indoor. I find it works really well outdoors too. 

Between mixed harsh and your soft lights, just make sure those two lights are in the same axis as much as possible. If you can't stack them together, here I only have one assistant, so I try to keep them at one direction but not the same height. But if you can keep them at the same height, it works even better. 


In conclusion, we learn about how to deal with midday sun on a beach shoot sort of scenario. Natural light is pretty beautiful. It's always good to have multiple arrows in your quiver. We learn about lighting with the sun behind the camera. We learned about the lighting with the sun as a backlight on the models. We learn about the lighting in the shadows with the sun coming from the side. We learn about if the sun is hiding behind a cloud or sun is too high and how to recreate sunlight in the cave. 

What you want to learn in my next talk? This is your mate Aries Tao. I'll see you guys in the next episode.

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