Been posting a few “fashion in the desert” pics over on our Instagram account, and there were some questions about the lighting, and the notion of achieving soft light quality in the midst of the roaring desert sun. One of the best ways of course is, as always, to seek what little precious shade might be out there. The other is to make your own shade. You’ll see below, the model is in a shady corner of a building, but there were still slivers of hot, high, desert sun glinting through into the corner. Jon Cospito ably blocked all this with a 3×3 Lastolite skylite diffuser. Simple stuff, super low tech. He just hand held it over our shooting scene, while I popped a small amount of fill flash into the model’s face, using a small Profoto strip light, arranged vertically.
This is an age-old technique, nothing special about it, just super practical, down and dirty location tactics. If the light sucks, block it. Below, we popped a lot of light at these two faces, to gain a big f-stop. (I was shooting with a 200-400mm, at 400.)
Our version of open shade was the soft box, in this case a Profoto 5′ Octa.
The extreme of course, is to build, essentially, a roof overhead, via the deployment of a blackout, or what’s referred to as a solid, overhead of the scene. Which is what we did, below, in another brutal desert environment, where the sun rules, in Peru.
Which then gives you free range to basically light whatever way you want, underneath that blanket of shade.
Then of course, there’s the old, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em strategy. If no shade is available, either from a building or a tree or of your own making, just take one of your lights and blast it at your subject, just like the sun is doing. This matches the raw quality of the sun, and does not alter it. But it does give you command of the direction of the “sun.” This particularly spectacular Samba dancer is in the deserts outside Las Vegas.
Subtracting light, and then adding your own. I was horrible at math, but this equation does work with light.