Having a rough idea of the weather for the day, including sunset time, is a major key in achieving the best possible lighting. For example; if you're intending to shoot golden hour light rays then ideally pick a day with less cloud cover so you have a better chance of getting direct sunlight. If a colorful and exciting sunset is what you're after then typically try and line it up with a partly to mostly cloudy day which will give you the most dramatic looking sky. You can use smartphone apps such as Sun Seeker to virtually track where the sun is going to be so it’s possible to get the perfect shot.
Whenever possible I highly recommend having a basic understanding of the sport that you’re photographing. This allows you to anticipate what will look best on camera, understand the timing involved, and where to best position yourself for the ideal framing. Another helpful trick is to constantly be communicating with the athletes. This collaboration will allow both the rider and photographer to be on the same page which will significantly improve the shoot’s productivity. If the athlete is a professional, then it’s likely that they’ve done a number of photoshoots before and can often times have great ideas which offer a fresh perspective.
One of the best parts about shooting in the evening is that there’s a wide variety of looks which are possible to achieve. The low evening light makes it easy to shoot directly into the sun which will give you a beautiful sun flare or backlit image. Another plus with having the sun closer to the horizon is that it creates dramatic shadows. This gives you the opportunity to utilize those shadows to help create a more unique image. A third reason why I personally like shooting in the evening is that I’m able to utilize small sun spots in my favor. This can give you the feeling of an artificial flash image with only using natural light. Lastly, shooting at sunset is one of the most popular times for photographers and colorful skies are always a crowd favorite. Have an idea of what you want to capture before you do it, and that will help the shoot go smoother.
Since shooting in the evening is always a battle against time it’s helpful to understand the quick changes you’ll need to make when you move locations. As a general rule of thumb, I will always increase my ISO since there’s less light overall. The maximum acceptable number will vary based on your camera brand, editing style, and the amount of grain that you’re willing to accept. If you’re planning on shooting directly into the sun and have a large amount of sky visible then you’ll want to slightly overexpose since your image since your camera is likely going to be confused. The opposite is true if you’re shooting into a dark background. I recommend underexposing a bit so that your subject comes out correctly lit instead of the camera overexposing everything. An extension of Tip 4 is to not be afraid of using flash. Whether you’re using small speedlites or powerful strobes, adding a bit of artificial light can really make your subject pop, while still keeping the colors of the sky.
My last tip is what I would consider the most important. It’s crucial to be moving around, changing angles, finding what works and what doesn’t work. Our natural environment is filled with unique angles, playful features, and ever-changing light. By constantly moving around it allows you to change your entire perspective and might just lead to an image you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of. Along with moving around it’s also great to experiment with different settings or perspectives. You can add filters such as polarizers or neutral density, shrink your f-stop for crisp sun stars, slow your shutter for low light pan shots, or a number of other exciting aspects. Lastly, I think it’s extremely important to enjoy what you’re doing. Remember that you’re doing what you love, whether it’s for a living or a hobby. Get out there, enjoy the outdoors, enjoy your friends, and take some amazing photos.
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