Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Photo Analysis - soft light in harsh conditions

I saw an interesting photo in the news and thought I could learn something from it.
 
 
The photographer is Thao Nguyen, whose blog is at http://thaophotography.blogspot.com/
 
What I found most interesting is the lighting.  The subject appears softly lit even though the background and the subject's left arm show that it was taken in harsh conditions (close to noon, with an almost cloudless sky).
 
Analysis: I haven't tried contacting the photographer yet to confirm how she took the shot, but I think it can be taken in a couple of ways that are doable for family photogs.
1. Diffusion panel + a reflector.  A diffusion panel may have been positioned above the subject to shade the subject from the harsh sunlight and at the same time turn the sunlight into a larger and softer light source.  There may also be a reflector positioned below and angled toward the subject to fill in shadows such as the one below the subject's jaw.
2. Shade + flash + light modifier.  Another way to take this shot is to position the subject in a shaded area, then use the flash on a light stand, together with a light modifier such as a softbox or umbrella to soften the light.