Shooting portraits in full sunlight can be a challenge, or fantastic, or a fantastic challenge. Using the natural light while being in the shadow is often a good recipe for nice portrait lighting, but what if the location is on a rooftop, with no shadow?
For this assignment of producing a magazine cover as well as some portraits for the article about these two experts on working with board of directors, I brought only one Profoto B1 together with some umbrellas and a large 5 foot softbox Octa.
Behind the scenes
Here it was, the very nice terrace on a roof in central Stockholm, with a clear blue sky above and an unforgiving sun shining behind me. I had already used a background with highrises on the left, and wanted something not so blue and harsh.
The building on top of the building was mostly glass, with large blinds behind it. That could be a good background, so I moved a table near the window and took some test shots.
Getting the background right was no problem, but placing my models there would put them with the sun almost blinding them
Flagging and lighting
A 5 foot softbox Octa is quite large, and works well as a flag (luckily there was almost no wind outside that day). If you can live with the large reflection in the glass behind, it is perfect as it is a nice light source as well.
Starting with getting the exposure on the background right, I added the Profoto B1 so the man and woman got the light they needed.
I ended up with a shutter of 1/1600 second using aperture f/4 on ISO 200. The Profoto B1 was on full effect with the Octa mounted (just the inner diffusor).
Thanks to High-Speed Sync (HSS), I could work this way and get a nice blur on the background with a 85mm/1.4 lens. The available light gave the scene a natural fill.
Just as a test shot, I got low and tried a different angle to see if getting the reflection of the sun in the window would be nice, but I ended up using the first angle as it looked better in every way.
The funny thing with these portraits are that they look a bit like the light you get under a white umbrella, it looks more like diffused sunlight than flash. I think.
I am very happy with how these portraits turned out, and the client was happy as well. And maybe I gave something extra in the photos for lighting nerds reading a magazine about how board of directors work to look at. It is all very meta.
Another fun thing is how easy it was, just one light and one quite large lighting modifier, plus some natural light lifting the shadows a bit.