How to Use the Sun as a Keylight for Outdoor Portraits

Afternoon sunlight doesn’t have to be harsh. It can actually enhance the beauty of outdoor photos by being turned into a soft keylight. Photographer Jay P. Morgan shows us how to do this when shooting a human model here:

Morgan uses a translucent reflector that can be held up toward the human subject. With help from a photo assistant, it’s easy to unleash the sun’s power. It’s simply a matter of getting everything in the right place.

  • Aim your camera toward the shadowy side of the subject, about 180 degrees away from them.
  • Have your subject pose with the sun just slightly behind them, so it shines onto their face.
  • Use a translucent reflector to get the sunlight to wrap around their face. A long tall one works best because it can cover an entire human figure. The one used in this video is 39 x 72-inches.
  • Have a photo assistant hold up the reflector between the sun and the subject. The closer they can hold it to the subject, the better.
  • Make sure to open up your exposure so the sky doesn’t blow out.

Sun as Keylight

“That beautiful light is gonna wrap around her face. She’s gonna look gorgeous.”

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