For this exercise you will need a subject that you can move around and which does not have a strong colour. A friend’s face would do well. The other thing that you will need is less reliable – very clear weather. Take three photographs, one in full sunlight during the middle of the day (that is mid morning to mid afternoon), one in shade during the middle of the day, and one in sunlight when the sun is close to the horizon. Make sure that the camera’s White balance is set to ‘daylight’.
The temperature of the sunlight varies throughout the day. Between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm it has a temperature of approximately 5500 kelvin. The harshest light occurs around noon where the overhead light casts hard shadows and creates raccoon-like shadows under people’s eyes. Evening light occurs when the sun loses its power and casts long shadows. Evening light is usually stronger than morning light.
It was a beautiful winter’s day, free from rain, with big, billowing clouds and blue sky, so for this exercise, I cajoled my husband into modelling for me.
The sun was rather bright for the first image so I told my husband to look off to the side so as not to squint at the camera. This white balance setting renders all the colours true. With the sun shining on his face, my husband has a healthy glow on his face.
With a daylight white balance taken in the shade, all colours are rendered with a blueish tint. The image appears visually colder. My husband’s brown camo cap now has a magenta tint to it, while his teal coloured jacket is now blue. His complexion is also more pink.
In order to get the image where the sun is close to the horizon, we headed down to the beach and waited for the sunset. The sun had just touched the horizon when I took this photo. The warm glow of the sun renders a lovely light on the face, at the same time warming the colours of the clothing, intensifying the brown colour of the cap and turning the jacket into a brown colour.
The side by side comparison can be seen in the collage below. I cropped the last image to fit into a portrait mode.
The sunlight image was as I expected it to be. I was quite surprised by the cooler tones rendered in the shade as they did not seem that much cooler when I positioned my husband in the shade. I was expecting the overall tone to be visually cooler but not by so much. The warm glow on the face during the sunset is the same as I remember it, but what did surprise me was the tonal change in the clothing. Mind you I was paying more attention to the face than the clothing.
Prakel, David, 2007. Basics Photography 02 – Lighting. Ava Publishing, London.