Bad light is actually good light…

Nothing earth shattering here, but shows that you can get a good exposure if you make your camera work for you. This photo is simple, but it has much better tonal characteristics than if I used fill-flash and stood 5 feet away. The shot was taken with the harsh sun of summer high in the sky. I could have moved closer to the subject and used a speedlight. Instead, I had the subject stand between me and the sun (to avoid squinting). I was 135mm away in the shade. I was able to accomplish 2 very important things. First, better tonal range (no flash). Secondly, much better bokeh given the 135mm of compression.

The key is to realize that the meter will be completely fooled in this situation. Your meter will panic and way under-expose the subjects face given the brightness of the background. So, the trick is to tell your camera to actually over-expose the shot. The shutter will keep the background ambient light under control.

I was at +1.33 Exposure Bias on this shot. 1/640 at f/5. Cloudy WB and Aperture Priority.

So, was this the proper way to get this shot? Maybe or maybe not. It was the way I liked it (and the client). It’s just something that I like to do…bring a little more artistic feel to an image. Sometimes a speedlight is “better,” but it all depends on what type of shot you’re going for.

So, the next time you are on a beach and want to get a cool shot, move your subjects between you and the sun (again, you don’t want them all squinting). Even with a point and shoot camera, focus on their faces, turn off the flash, and adjust the exposure bias to +1 or +2. You will probably be happier with the results.

-Chris

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