Upside down and backwards.......if you haven't figured it out by now, that's how most things in photography go. So why wouldn't outdoor lighting be any different? Ask anyone but a photographer, "What kind of day do you think is best for taking your kids out for some awesome picture taking?" and the answer is going to be, "A bright and beautiful blue-skied sunny day!".
Well if your name is Annie Liebovitz or if you had an arsenal of equipment, years of experience and invisible sunglasses for your kiddos, that might be the right answer. But since none of the above apply (at least for us!), allow us to introduce you to one of our favorite secret weapons - the bright cloudy day!
We just adore bright cloudy days - they make Momtographers look good! See, an overcast sky is natures diffuser. The clouds capture the harsh bright light of the sun, filtering and spreading it into soft, even lighting that is very flatering - especially when photographing children. It's so flattering that bright overcast days should be written into the schedule as portrait days!
If you remember from our talk on light and exposure, the science of digital photography has to do with how your camera records light to make a picture. All cameras have limitations on how much information they can see and interpret - even the best camera doesn't have near the range of the human eye. For this reason, bright, sunny conditions can be extremely tricky for your camera. Generally, in bright sun, two things happen that work against you:
First, the direct sun is so powerful that it creates huge extremes between light and dark - too extreme for the sensor on your camera to interpret and record. In an effort to properly record one extreme (usually the white), your camera completely loses the other.
The second problem is the harsh shadows cast on whatever the rays of the sun aren't hitting directly making the difference between light and dark even greater. This means unless your children came stock with removable foreheads, their eyes will get lost in the shadow of their brow bone while the sun is overhead. That's if their eyes aren't already totally shut from squinting!
The photo above demonstrates both problems that sunny-day shooting can cause. The first problem is the harsh shadowing cast by the direct unfiltered rays of light coming from above. Because Sydney has her head tilted down, her entire face is covered in shadow, save for a little bit of light reflecting off of her Paw Paw's cap. And Paw Paw, are you even there?
But a BRIGHT overcast day - one with an even covering of light grey clouds that cover the sun - creates light that is soft and even allowing a digital camera to get much more detail from every part of the color spectrum. This ensures that you won't be searching for your little one's eyes in a shadow, or lose too many important details in the dark trying to keep the highlights from blowing out! All you have to do is look for a good background and you're covered.
See this picture of Chloe - she is standing out in the middle of the sidewalk where normally there is no shade and it would be far too bright to get an evenly lit picture. But because it was slightly overcast - Krista was able to effortlessly capture this portrait followed by Chloe's afternoon jumpathon!
Notice how Chloe's face is evenly lit and here eyes are bright and open wide! THANK YOU OVERCAST SKIES!!!