Correcting Dappled Light – Photography Tips & Tricks

dappled light photograph

Harsh lighting patterns caused by Dappled Light through the trees.

dappled light correcting photography tip

Lighting corrected with the Shoot Through Umbrella which has balanced the exposure.

Photography Tips & Tricks Tip – Dappled Light.

This tip is all about correcting Dappled Light. What is Dappled Light/Shade you may ask?

Lets say for example you have found the perfect Photograph Location (or so you think) that’s under a tree and you take the photograph and you see that the lighting is all wrong, highlights and shadows all over the place on the subject/s face and you wonder what is wrong. You look up and notice that the tree above has gaps where the sun is poking through and areas which are blocked by branches/leaves and this produces the ‘patchy’ or dappled light which is causing the strange lighting pattern on your subject’s face.

Ideally what you’re looking to do is equalise the lighting, create a technically flat area of light or shade that will fix the exposure issue. Ideally you would move to a shadier spot, however lets say for instance that the tree you’re photographing under is particularly important, it was the first tree planted by the families great great great great grandfather and so the photograph must be taken under that tree, so what can you do?

As I mentioned before you’re looking to effectively equalise the exposure, this usually means getting out a light modifier (we’ll be talking about modifiers, settings and more in future Tips & Tricks) of some sort and in this case I would suggest picking up a Shoot-through Studio Umbrella such as the Konig 33 inch Photographic Umbrella which is around £6.49 from Amazon. This is quite a large Shoot Through Umbrella and so it should be sufficient for at least 1-2 people. Our example above uses a 36″ Umbrella.

Now at this point it’s time to turn to a friend or partner and ask them to open up and hold the umbrella above your subject/s (ideally nice and high so that you don’t get it in the photograph, or of course you can turn to Adobe’s Content Aware Remove to fix it – more on that in another Tip).

My assistant in the photographs above is holding the umbrella herself and as such the umbrellas reach to fix the issue is limited however having someone else hold it higher would help.

At this point as the photographer you want to make the subject smile (usually?) and start taking your photograph, there we go problem fixed.

There is another factor in the brightness of the background, remember I said you’re looking to equalise the light? the best way to look at it is that if it’s particularly dark under the umbrella (lots of trees for example) but your background is the hills behind which are bright then it’ll usually be best to either try and use your Flash Gun to brighten the front of the subject (equalise – see?) or move the subject around so that the background is of a similar brightness (photography is subjective though and what looks good to you may not be another persons cup of tea).

The image on the right shows how moving around has changed the background and overexposed it.

Now i’ve said ‘equalise’ a lot in this post but i’m really just trying to drive the point home, as you may expect there’s a lot of different light modifiers that come in all shapes and sizes and i’ll go through a lot more in upcoming Tips & Tricks but for now i’ll leave you with a link to the PIXAPRO 180cm 71″ Super Large Translucent White Pro Studio Umbrella Mega Brolly MONSTER Umbrella I take with me to Weddings (great for group Photos) which can at times render my assistant to do a slight Mary Poppins and lift off the floor if the wind gets up.

I hope this has helped and as always please feel free to subscribe to get notified when new Tips & Tricks go live or drop me a comment below with any feedback or questions for future Photography Tips & Tricks.

Take Aways

– Dappled Light produces an unbalanced lighting pattern on your subject

– A light modifier such as a Shoot Through Umbrella can help to fix this issue

– Bright backgrounds with a dark foreground will create an unbalanced exposure.

dappled light photograph fix tip

Our weapon of choice – 100cm Shoot Through Umbrella

dappled light photograph fix trick

Equalise the lighting in the foreground and background, a bright background has ruined the exposure.

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