Easter came and went already. It’s amazing how fast 2012 is moving. I was at Wally World and they had bunny ears for sale so everyone could be an honorary Easter Bunny. I saw these ears and I had other ideas. As most of the readers of this blog know that I’m not wrapped to tight anyway!

Since my wife and I don’t have any kids, we treat our Golden Retriever as our child. She acts like a kid anyway, always at the refrigerator door wanting a carrot or hounding me for a cookie. She’s a nut job, not to sure where she picked that up!

When Easter came it was time to create a photo for next years Easter card. With our pockets full of cookies we headed outdoors. It was noon time so the light was crappy and harsh as you might imagine. Most folks that I talk with think that being a photographer is a plush job and you get all these benefits. I’m sure that some folks have that luxury. I seem to have Mother Nature throwing everything at me and I have to make a photograph in adverse conditions. I really don’t mind this as it keeps the mind and skill set sharp for when it really counts.

In a case like this, it helps to find some shade as that will be diffused lighting. On the edge of the property we have some scrub palms so these had enough shade to cover Emme. I set up a light stand on camera left with a shoot through umbrella on a light stand.

For the camera settings I used ISO 100 at f/5.6, 1/250. The flash was in manual mode and set at the nuclear setting. This would be full power for those of you who are still following along. We got Emme to sit in the shaded spot that we had scouted out. Then we put the bunny ears on her. As you can see from the following photo, she was really enjoying herself.

 Get this damn thing OFF MY HEAD, you are a DEAD human! – Spencer Pullen © 2012

Ok, Hallmark probably wouldn’t run this, but I died laughing as this is the same look my wife gives me when I tell her that I bought more camera stuff. It was more than time for a cookie at this point. As we were talking nice to her and giving her some handfuls of cookies, she started to forget about the “prop” on her head and loosened up a bit. As my wife kept feeding her cookies, I was ready at the shutter button taking them as fast as the flash could recycle. Here is a more pleasing photograph after feeding the cookie monster:

 OK, I forgive you…keep the cookies coming! – Spencer Pullen © 2012

By now you might have figured out this isn’t really about sticking ears on your pet and getting some nice photographs. What we are really doing here is wrestling the crappy noon daylight into something that will be pleasing and something that we can expose for. Here’s the tip, if it’s really bright out like it was in this case, move your subject into some shade. Expose for the background, which will be very bright. Without flash, your subject will be dark. This is ok as we are going to light them separately. Once you have verified that you aren’t clipping any highlights in the sun lit areas, it’s time to work on the subject. My personal style is to mix hard and soft light. In this case, since I’m dealing with a furry four year old, my time to work with her is limited, so I used just the one light in this case. I placed the flash as described above next to her. This will make your flash work pretty hard, as we have to compete against the sun, so we will need all of the photons that it will give us. Set it to full power and let er’ rip! If you have regular studio strobes in the 400-1,000 watt second area, you will have no problem doing this as they have much more horsepower.

I use this technique a lot while on a location shoot. Yes, it nice to have a completely dark studio with total control over the light and not to mention air conditioning. Well, as I said before, this is what separates the experienced from the “I only shoot in the best conditions” crowd. If you can make a pleasing photo with adverse conditions, you have accomplished quite a bit as a photographer.

Until next time…

Keep Your Glass Clean


  1. Hi Spencer
    I enjoy your blog whenever it arrives, I am constantly being reminded of lessons learned in my camera club days in New England; and every once in a while I get a new way to improve a picture or technique. Thanks for the tips and keep up the good work. Ted

  2. Great pointers for lighting outdoors. Looks like you and Emme shared
    some quality time as well. Keep those cookies coming! Carol E.

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