It’s that time again where we all like to enjoy the water and like the seagulls we flock to the nearest and largest body of water. Whether it’s a pool, lake, or beach, water is nature’s way of cooling us off quickly, especially during the summer and the retail industry makes billions each year selling us everything from swimsuits to snorkel fins–most through ads that feature beautiful, bikini-clad models, some even wearing wicked weasels.
The photographers that take these images work under the same conditions as all photographers taking pictures of their family near or around water–battling reflected light from the sky, water, sand and even concrete from the edges of a pool. Anything on the white side of the tonal scale will reflect and amplify light like crazy.
While reflected light is sometimes a sweeter light than direct sun-light, it’s also the culprit to many underexposed subjects. Unless you’re using a narrow spot meter, your camera meter system is easily fooled by all this reflected light and will give you false readings, thus you have an underexposed image. To help prevent this, many photographers will set the settings on their under/over exposure compensation dial/buttons to at least an F-stop, sometimes up to two F-stops on the overexposure side of the scale, depending on the camera make and model.
With digital cameras, it’s even easier as you can view your histogram and if you trust your LCD screen, like I trust the screens on most of my cameras, then you will see your results right away and can make minor adjustments with your under/over exposure compensation scale. While you don’t want to actually overexpose your image, you’re simply using this dial to “recalibrate” the camera’s thought process so the camera “thinks” that you want to overexpose the image and will allow itself to open up the aperture or increase the shutter speed to achieve that properly exposed look, when in reality the camera is correcting the exposure back to normal or compensating for all that back and reflected light.
Reflected light also creates squinting and most people don’t like models with closed eyes. One method some pro photographers use to reduce the squint is to take a black tulle cloth, a cloth similar to sheer material that you can purchase at your local Walmart’s fabric section for a few dollars, and place it over their reflectors. Depending on the size of your reflectors, this won’t cost you but a few dollars. I do this with my California Sunbounce reflectors that come in various rectangular sizes and simply clip the fabric to the sturdy aluminum frame. It also helps to count to three to your subject so they will open their eyes wider.
Another trick is to wear black. Yes, you’ll sweat a bit more than wearing white, but your sweat is the indication you’re absorbing the energy (light and heat) away from the model’s eyes as she looks at the camera, thus giving her a comfortable place to look and when the shoot is over, just jump in the water and cool off–though don’t take your camera with you! rg sends!