Laguna Beach Portrait Workshop

October 11, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

In this month's photography workshop, we are working on overpowering the sun while taking portraits outdoors on a sunny day in Laguna Beach, CA. 

We are using a Prophoto B2 with a small octobox on a monopod to get lighting that is strong enough to overpower the sun. 

To create this look, place the person directly between you and the sun, so that you can draw a straight line between you, the person, and the sun. If you don't place them in line with the sun, it is likely that a sliver on one side of their face will be too bright from the sun.

What we are doing is outlining the person's hair and shoulders with the sun to create separation between the person and the background.

First expose for the background, and then add your portrait light and adjust its power. Play around with different exposures for your background until you find one that fits your vision for the portrait. Here we have 3 different looks based on background exposure, each of which gives a different feeling for the portrait.


The sun is starting to set at this location, and the clouds are moving in and out of the sun. In order to create beautiful light on our subject, we have one person standing on a fence between her and the sun, casting a shadow onto her. Next we place the Prophoto B2 close to her and to the right of the frame to sculpt her face and create a softer light. As you can see, her face is just as bright as the houses on the cliffs behind her in direct sunlight.  

After you get the level of lighting that you like for the background, keep these settings. Do not adjust your exposure if the light on the subject's face is too bright. Rather, adjust the power of your strobe to create a balanced lighting scenario. 

Here the sun has gone below the horizon, creating a beautiful warm haze along the horizon. We've done a bit of cross processing in the next two images to create a cyanotype image with warm highlights. This is done in Lightroom and makes the shadows cooler and the highlights warmer. 

In all of these portraits I am pointing her nose toward the light, something that I learned from one of my photography mentors Scott Robert Lim. This helps to sculpt the nose, cheekbones, and jaw by using shadows. 

This final image was taken in near darkness with no tripod. We are shooting with a slow shutter speed to expose for the background. Then the strobe lights our subject in a fraction of a second, freezing any movement during the exposure. The result is dramatic silhouettes for our setting, and a beautifully lit portrait.

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