How to shoot against the setting sun

Our model Vianda poses in the sunset

Our model Vianda poses in the sunset

Shooting against the setting sun might seem like magic, but it’s not all that complicated! First thing you have to understand is that you have 2 light sources: Ambient light (natural, outside light) and Flash. Because our human eye can open and close and discern shape and form even in dark light, it can leave the impression that your camera can also do this, but alas, the camera needs a little help.

Should you set your camera for the ambient light/ sunlight, you’ll notice that the gorgeous, bikini babe (typical!) will now be cast in shadow and might only be a dark silhouette in your photo. The opposite is also true. Should you set the camera to expose for the model, the background will be pitch black. So, how do we overcome this little problem?


My daughter Lieschen poses to illustrate the difference between flash and without.

My daughter Lieschen poses to illustrate the difference between flash and without.

Remember that you can not take this photo without flash, as the ambient light is already too dark. Now, put the flash off for a second and set your camera for perfect exposure for the background. It will probably already be quite dark, so this might be on settings like ISO 400, 1/ 250 shutter speed and f8 depth of field. Remember that your flash sync speed is usually about 1/250 maximum, any shutter speed faster than this will give you half-black photos, called curtaining.

Now, here’s the little magic trick the pros seldom let you in on. From the moment you switch on your flash, know that shutter speed controls ambient light, and depth of field controls flash light. So, if your model is still shadowy in the photo, decrease your aperture to f8, f10, f11 and so on. This will only change the light on the model. If your sundown in the background is too dark, change your shutter speed to say for instance 1/ 200, 1/ 160. Play with these two until you get the balance of the photo just right! Remember that a lot of photography is just experimentation and playing with settings and never be discouraged! You are also more that welcome to ask for help, should you not get this right the first time you try.

Another little trick to improve your photo is to always remember that straight, head on flash very seldom flatters.  A soft box, diffuser or some type of flash softener might be a good idea. This will cast your lovely model in a soft, beautiful light and not show every dimple and mark. But, because these circumstances can be quite dark, you’ll have to set either your flash to a higher setting or your camera’s aperture to compensate for the diffused light.

Till next week