Every time I come to a new location I instantly examine my surroundings for beautiful natural light. I don’t look for background, but for light, because light is everything. One of my favorite times to shoot in urban areas is at noon when I have lots of natural reflectors. Fall and winter seasons are especially nice for shooting, because the sun is not directly above at the zenith point, but is always lower in the sky. Having said that, here’s a behind the scenes look at a recent shoot in downtown area.
Most of the time I don’t arrive to the scene early, so this is what I saw when we drove to the top of a parking garage. It was around noon and as you can see the parking lot is fully illuminated by the sun. By the time we walked from our parking spot out into the middle, I identified four areas where I could shoot, two open shade areas, a backlit area and a sidelit area. Your style of photography will dictate the light you like to use, but this is the type of light I prefer. I could also have the couple facing the sun for a frontlit photo, but that’s not to my taste.
The first circled area was my favorite spot and I took the couple there first. The area is in the shade caused by a tall building just to the left of the photo, and if you notice carefully you can see the shadow line running down the middle of a step. This is awesome, because even though the shaded area looks dark, it’s only a step away from the bright surface of the parking lot, which acts as a perfect natural reflector. For my favorite photo from that location, I had the couple sit down just to the left of where you see the shadow line meet on the step and light came from the side of the parking lot illuminating their skin beautifully. See photo 1 below.
The second circle offered exactly the same light as area 1, and by the time we walked over there, the sun moved and the building cast even more shadow allowing us to incorporate the Stairs sign into the frame. See photo 2 below.
Area 3 offered backlit light, meaning the subject was illuminated from the back. Again, the sun was low in the sky, creating the glow in the hair. The subjects’ faces in this case are illuminated by the light bouncing off the parking garage surface. See photo 3.
Area 4 was directly illuminated by the sun, so I knew I had that option for a few shots. The sun light is coming from the side here and it worked great for a wide shot, especially since the couple is standing in the same light as the buildings in the back. I wouldn’t shoot their faces close up here, because the light is not even on their faces. (That’s just my preference). See photo 4.
You can see the rest of the photos from the shoot here.
I hope this will help you the next time you’re shooting and as with everything in life, you can train your eye to see pretty light wherever you go! Cheers, Yuliya.