Today we’re going to be talking about working with flash in full sun, but before we talk about using the flash, we have to look at the light we are dealing with, the ambient light the light from the sun.
The first thing to consider is the direction of that light. I shot this video at noon, and most people think that that means the sun is directly above them, but that’s not actually true. While the sun is at its zenith, I live in the state of Wisconsin, and that means is the sun is actually coming from the South (as I was facing east), principally lighting from high and to the right/South.
In a situation like this, one of the very easy things you can do is put the sun directly on the subject, but if you do that, you’ll get dark shadows in the eyes and under the chin because even if the sun isn’t directly above me, it’s still high enough in the sky that my brow is casting a shadow on my eyes, and my chin is casting a shadow on my chest.
A better option is to bounce light in from the side, or better yet, to scrim your subject by putting something in between them and the sun.
Scrimming the subject is a way of creating what’s called “open shade”, which describes a situation where the subject is out of the direct sun, but is still being lit by the sun, and you don’t have to scrim to get open shade. You can often easily move your subject into open shade. Just look for a place where you are in the shade, but can still look up and see the sky.
Now one of the other things we need to talk about is the reflection of the sunlight. A perfect example is what’s happening on the side of my face as light from the side of my house and the concrete is bouncing back up and illuminating the side of my body.
This is something that you’re going to want to watch out for. You need to pay attention to where all of the light is coming from. Not just the direction of the sun, but what the sun is bouncing and reflecting off.
Once you fully evaluate your main light, and whatever the sun is bouncing off of, you need to then consider what you want to do with your flash, but before you do that you need to manage the exposure of that ambient light.
With your ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed set to control the light from the sun, you can bring in your flash, and where you position it, and the power level you use will depend entirely on what you want the photo to look like.
Something you might be wondering about is using high speed sync?
You can certainly use high speed sync if you need it. In this example I didn’t have to because, but if you want to use high speed sync, then you just turn on high speed sync. The principles of this process remain the same, you’re just using high speed sync to have more flexibility in your ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed settings.
As an example, you might want to shoot a super wide aperture to get the bokeh and blur out the background. That’s a case where you’d want to activate the high speed sync so you could increase that shutter speed to balance out the affect of opening up the aperture to letting more sunlight.
The point is that bouncing flashing sun is not terribly difficult. What you need to do is just understand the basic process of a evaluating and managing your ambient lights by positioning your subject in a good spot, and then after doing that, managing the exposure of that ambient light and using your flash to fill in where you want that fill.
Gear used in this video:
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I used to be scared of my flash, and I understand how intimidating flash photography can be, but a flash is just a tool. Once you understand how that tool works you’ll be using your flash to create photos that used to seem impossible.
If you want to master your flash and take those amazing photos, check out my Understanding Flash Photography Video Course.