Dramatic Backlight on a Sunny Day

Beating the Sun on a Sunny Day

At the Mexico workshop we decided to do some morning shots on the Beach. Precilla and Jazmin wanted to do this hat shot and I thought it would be fun to use the dramatic sky as a compositional element. I had left my meter back at the casa and didn’t want to walk back for it.

No matter, it is easy to figure out how to do this with your camera only. I started by taking a photo of Precilla with the background as the most important element.

Starting with an exposure to find out how close we were

You can see how the sky is very dark and moody with this exposure. I used f-20 at 1/100 at ISO 100. This proved a bit too dark for my tastes. I wanted dramatic, not scary. Alex is holding the flash but not really aiming at Precilla at this point. You can see some of the flash on her in this image.

Learn to Light with inexpensive tools at Lighting Essentials

I tried a second shot with the same settings to get an idea of what the flash was doing. I liked where the skin tones on Precilla were going, but felt the whole image was too dark. The hat isn’t nearly white enough, the skin on her tummy is way too dark and her facial features are a bit muddy.

Pricilla on the beach in Mexico: a second test shot

I decided to shoot at 1/60 at f-16 to lighten the sky by opening the shot up by a little over a stop. I would rather have the shot ‘open’ than too dark and moody. So I added about a stop and a third to get the image where I wanted it. After a test shot I was happy and began the set.

Precilla on the Beach in Mexico for Lighting Essentials

For lighting I used two cheap speedlights bungee’d together. The little Sunpack 433′s were picked up on EBay for about $40 for the pair. They aren’t terribly powerful units, but they compliment my kit nicely. I love getting little winks of light. The two of them at 1/8 power (2 x 1/8 = 1/4) gave me plenty of light (f-16) at a comfortable distance from Precilla. The low power also meant they recycled almost instantly… even after several shots. I use cheap ball bungees for wrapping them together. I am keeping the light slightly off axis of the camera to camera left.

Many times I like to use assistants to hold the strobes instead of stands. I like the fluidity of having the light move with the model. Alex is a photographer as well, so he was able to keep up with Precilla as she moved in the surf.

We will be having another workshop in Mexico in September, watch for more details.

Print Friendly

About 

I am in love with light.

Also known as Don Giannatti, photography has been the focus of my life for most of my adult years. I have written three books for Amherst Media (available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble: keyword 'don giannatti'. Lighting Essentials is my flagship blog and ezine with a slightly different slant than most photography related blogs. If you are interested in becoming a better photographer, check out www.project52.org. Thanks for visiting.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title="" rel=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge