Tech Tips : Natural Reflector in Harsh Light


We woke yesterday morning and took Polo on his morning walk. The humidity left water droplets on the windows of our bus, but we ventured out in thick of the thickness. Ten minutes into our walk, the skies broke and it poured. We ran in search of coverage–our flip-flops dragging up water as we sprinted–and hid in an open-air garage for ten minutes as thick puddles formed at our feet.

I’d seen it happen before: a couple gets caught in the rain and then they laugh, they make out, then splash each other in slow motion. Isn’t how all the movies work? Well, in real life we hid and hoped we wouldn’t be stuck for too long. When we finally ran back to the bus, we shook ourselves off and covered the dog in towels. It was then when I missed my chance for movie romance and asked JD for a do-over. Can we get stuck again so, like, we can make out and stuff?

Too much information? Yeah, sorry. How about more information in regard to photography? I’m sure many of you are taking a huge sigh of relief!

85mm f/2.8 1/800 100 ISO

After posting Laura and Adam’s Malibu engagement photos, Sarah asked: You gotta tell me how you do that! Especially the shot of Laura and Adam under those lights with the shadow stretched out in front of them. How do you ensure that they don’t end up underexposed with that amazing light behind them?

Like I mentioned on that blog post, it was extraordinarily bright in Malibu Canyon that day and the sun was higher in the sky than I normally like to shoot, but it was great because it created a distinctive natural reflector. If the sun was lower in the sky, their faces would have been more underexposed, but light was being reflected from the ground in front of them. And brightly so. This light was what made this photo possible.
   The Solution This photo is verrry close to how it appeared SOOC (straight out of camera). I added +1 red to color balance since the tones were cool and used the Dodge tool in Photoshop to lighten their skin by creating a duplicate layer of the original, then dodging the areas of their skin I wanted to highlight. I used the Burn tool (set at 15%) to slightly darken the corners of the photo…and that’s it. I wish I did fancier things in order to sound impressive, but that’s all I got…and I hope it’s enough.

Happy Monday!

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  1. Chris - Smudged Photo

    March 5th, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    I’m always amazed how you always make something like this sound so simple to do, and judging by the finished photos it certainly makes a difference.

    But actually managing to think things like using the reflective floor etc probably come with years of practice.

  2. Rachel Tatem

    March 5th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    Beautiful picture and thanks for the tips. Not TMI, my husband and I have gotten caught… but we like the rain so we just slowed down and enjoyed the walk…

  3. francine

    March 5th, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    i loved the story about you and jd caught in the rain! real life is so much more interesting and varied than the movies (:

  4. Nzinga Green

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Girl, you keep it so real. Hilarious!

  5. Mike

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:02 pm

    Thank you, Jasmine! Love little tips like these.

  6. Susan Lloyd

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    No ma’am…that amount of work on one image sounds perfect. Keeps you away from the computer and focused on those romantic, rain soaked walks! PS- not only do you inspire my work as a photographer, you inspire my role as a wife. Thanks!!

  7. Tara

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    GORGE! I just looked at the shoot! And just gorgeous!

  8. Lisa

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I don’t have anything "techy" to say about this photo, but I do want to say that I love it!
    I love photos that have shadows in them that work out so beautifully.

  9. Glitter bird Tammy

    March 5th, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    The fact that you got the amazing shot with the light so bright is impressive enough. SOOC? Really? With just a little editing. Nice work.

  10. LEOLAK

    March 5th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Awww…what a cute story. Now you know next time what to do if you get caught in the rain again. =)

  11. Haley Johnston

    March 5th, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Great tips on the photo and wonderful that it was almost SOOC! I hope you and JD can have another sudden rainfall happen soon so you can make it like a movie scene 😉

  12. Paula Franco FOTOGRAFÍA

    March 5th, 2012 at 5:59 pm

    Thanks Jasmine!! Happy Monday too!!

  13. Pam

    March 5th, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Jasmine, how do you do that? +1 red? I want to understand how to do this. Thank you.

  14. Laurajane

    March 5th, 2012 at 6:54 pm

    i just took photos like this the other day when the sun was so high and we were standing in the street. and i honestly never thought of a black street as being a natural reflector. i guess it worked though because the skin tones are great and she’s not underexposed. now i know the technical reasons for why my shots worked, and explains a little better why i like to shoot at that time of day. thanks.

  15. Karen

    March 5th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks for sharing! =] I always love learning from you.

  16. Jenelle Sewell

    March 5th, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Great information! The shot is fantastic and the colors are beautiful….wonderful job.

  17. Neda Lahrodi-Blake

    March 5th, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Thanks for sharing! I’m practicing on back light and natural light gosh its hard but results can be ooh so fab x

  18. Yuliya M.

    March 5th, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    Love this post, thank you Jasmine. You made me miss the rain though 😉

  19. Darlene Hall

    March 5th, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing!

  20. Kristen Wilson

    March 6th, 2012 at 12:58 am

    Thanks for breaking it down for us Jasmine, I love this photo!

  21. Kate

    March 6th, 2012 at 3:12 am

    Jasmine– you rock. I’m hoping you’ll blog about The Fault in Our Stars, because everyone needs to know how awesome it is!

  22. Schaffer Photography

    March 6th, 2012 at 4:15 am

    Thanks for sharing! I am sometimes stumped when shooting in full sunlight so any tips can help!

  23. Alexandra Punales

    March 6th, 2012 at 4:35 am

    lol I’m going to assume you were still here in Miami when this happened?

  24. Falcon

    March 6th, 2012 at 8:27 am

    Jasmine you are the QUEEN of natural reflectors! I’ve learned so much from you, thank you always 🙂

  25. Tina Nandi

    March 6th, 2012 at 10:35 am

    Loving this series! So helpful. I so appreciate your willingness to share your knowledge, Jasmin.Thanks a lot!

  26. Mia Bjerring

    March 6th, 2012 at 1:59 pm

    I love these Tech Tips posts so much! Thank you so much Jasmine, this really helped a lot! 🙂

  27. Martha Davidson

    March 6th, 2012 at 7:58 pm

    Jasmine! I love that your editing is so simple. I remember sitting in your workshop looking through your SOOC photos and thinking. Crap she is perfect. But it so inspired me to be a better Photographer vs. Editor.
    I was able to edit infront of a client the other day, because I wasn’t embarrassed of my SOOC images, and it was magical. They thought it was so fasinating was were very much impressed with the small details I changed to perfect their images (like you’r +1 red).
    Thank You, thank you, thank you. I can’t thank you enough for making me a better photographer.
    Martha Mae

  28. Sarah Collier

    March 6th, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    I really like the shadow lines in the picture and that their shadow fits into the others.

  29. Dan

    March 7th, 2012 at 7:16 am

    Great post – thanks !

  30. Jen Carr

    March 7th, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I have added walls etc. to my aresenal of reflectors to look for when shooting, but I hadn’t yet thought of the GROUND. Great point! Thanks for sharing!

  31. Idie

    March 8th, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Great tip! So, if they were standing on the grass, for example, it wouldn’t have worked? Their faces would have been green? 🙂 I need to start seeing the world in "natural reflectors."

  32. JC Ruiz

    March 9th, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    Great photo. Love the shadows and great tip as well.

  33. Sarah

    March 10th, 2012 at 9:47 pm

    Thank you so much for answering my question! It is a really beautiful photograph but underexposure when a scene is backlit is something I really struggle with and usually end up having to alter the exposure in Photoshop afterwards. Thanks for the tip!

  34. Yair Haim

    March 12th, 2012 at 4:41 am

    Thanks for sharing tips. You make it sound so simple 😉