I really like having light sources in frame. Or at the very least, shooting light towards my lens. When I’m shooting outside, I pretty much always try to shoot INTO the sun.
I know, it’s a little outside of some peoples understanding of the "rules" of photography.
I’ve tutored new photographers who think I’m crazy when I set up a portrait shooting into the sun. I just love it.
However, on more than one occasion I’ve been shooting away and the sun dips below the horizon. Or it was obscured by some low cloud cover. Or it was 1pm in July. Sometimes the sun isn’t where I need to it to be, in order for it to be visible behind my subject.
So, I fake it. Here are a few examples.
You can achieve this look with a single speed light, a half or full CTO gel (gelled to taste), and a little know-how.
Step One: Understanding
The key thing to remember here is that the strobe is not your main light. This lighting method is the very essence of blending off camera flash with ambient light. In all except for one of the above examples, the ambient light is the main light and the “sun” light is kept relatively low output to blend in with the ambient exposure. Like the secret to a good haircut or a killer smoothie, its all in the blending.
Step Two: Expose Properly
Get your ambient exposure at or a little above where you want it. If you’re working on a close in portrait (chest, head, and shoulders) you can bounce light off a reflector and back into your subjects face. Overexposing the ambient light slightly will go a long way in making your strobe blend with the daylight.
Step Three: Place and set your light
Get your CTO gelled flash in frame or JUST out of frame and set power output to your desired effect. play around with the blending of it until it looks natural.
Step Four: Realize this doesn’t always work
This is a little hard to explain, but there are a few situations where this just wont work. It will look fake and contrived. The most common situation is where there are a lot of objects between your flash and your subject. The cone of light is not sufficient to fake sunlight on all objects in the frame. You want to make sure that any objects aside from your subject are being hit by this fake sunlight also, otherwise it will just look really fake. Observe the image above, where our cone of light is obvious. It is a combination of underexposure of the ambient light, and the viewer seeing too many background elements that SHOULD be affected by the "sun" light, but aren't.
Step Five: Remove light stands in post (if necessary)
Whenever possible I hide light stands or use a LumoPro studio clamp to reduce the amount of post processing I have to deal with. In general however, it's not terribly difficult to remove a light stand in Photoshop.