Photographing Without any kind of Fill Outdoors

May 08, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Outdoor Portrait Photography without any kind of Fill-or a Team of Assistants

Hi, I'm Erik Davis, one of the Administrators for Chicago Photographic Society.  I haven't been very active as of late, but now I feel it's my time.  

My first lesson is photographing outdoors without using any kind of fill!  Sounds scary right?  My first mentors told me to always use a reflector or fill flash at all times and that outdoor photography was something only done in the shade.  If the subjects were in the sun, they shouldn't look at the camera!  Also, if the portrait is done in the sun, you must scrim the light!  Monty Zucker, in a publishing I read and I paraphrase, stated he didn't like outdoor photography because I couldn't control the light.  I have since learned and practiced outdoor photography without fill flash or any kind of fill cards and have achieved stunning, natural looking results that brides love so much now!    

You have seen the articles in magazines or videos from preaching photographers who discuss outdoor photography almost always have at least on assistant if not a team with them to scrim, gobo, reflect, bounce, and the light.  Others will tell you the only way to do photography outdoors is to have their Profoto D1 with a slammin' battery pack, a beauty dish which require-a team of assistants.  Wait there's more, don't forget the willowy model, that's 5'11" and weighs only 108 lb. soaking wet! 

A little over a year ago I stumbled on a video by Cliff Mautner, on Kelby Training www.kelbytraining.com, who is a Philadelphia based photographer, used to work for the Philadelphia Enquirer for over twenty years, who successfully demonstrated outdoor photography in the sun, mid day with no fill.  No assistant either! Just Cliff and his subject.  Wow!  Not only was I curious, but encouraged too, little ole' me could do this!  The key that Mr. Mautner pointed out is that the sun must me behind the model (somewhere, not necessarily directly behind), using a telephoto lens, and the model juxtaposed against a dark background, i.e. a building, tree line, mountain, or other terrain, etc.  He would start with the camera on Aperture Priority, take some test shots, adjusting the exposure comp 'til the photo looked good-then switch to manual mode with the settings of the best photo.  One thing to remember is to reset the exposure comp!  The results: Stunning!  Here are some samples I have taken using those techniques.  

First is Michelle.  I photographed her while on a George Street Assignment a few days back.  This is the photo as is out of the box, except for the jpeg conversion.  

It looks like the photograph is in shade however, she is in the open, the tree and fence behind her are shaded.  

 

Here's another from the day:

 

Out in the open against a dark background.  She looks stunning!  

Here's another one, this is another George Street Assignment from 2010.

This photograph is edited, however the principle remains the same:

Erik Davis You can do this too!  Don't be afraid!  Take a few shots during an assignment or practice with a friend.  Once you get comfortable, and competent, you'll (almost) never want to mount your flash up again!  

-Erik

 


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