I just made a little tutorial to show how I would use levels and layers to quickly make a silhouette. There are of course other ways, but here’s a simple method and I made it available as an 8-minute online video for only $2.00! Click here for the video intro page. And be sure to see all my full tutorials on eBay!
Normally a cloudy sky makes for great diffusion and solves a lot of the problems that a sunny day creates like dramatic contrast and huge shadows. That may be good for portraits, but not always so good for swimwear. Compare the photo shot on a sunny day to the photo shot on a cloudy one.
The sunny day certainly creates more vibrance, and colors the water nicely. But the contrast overexposes the sunny side of the model and makes her squint. The cloudy day evens out the exposure on the model, but makes for a pretty flat photo otherwise.
Sometimes it’s ok to shoot a swimsuit model in the bright sun – heck that’s what bikinis and summer days and water are all about right?
The solution for minimizing harsh contrast? I think the best solution is to shoot on a sunny day and protect the model from the sun somehow. Either have an assistant hold a scrim or a sun blocking shade to block the model from the sun, but let the sun light up the rest of the scene, or have the model hide under a tree, boat, overhang, or some other shading object.
Be sure to order my DVD for much more on photographing your models in swimwear.
Shooting swimwear (or anything for that matter) in the bright afternoon sun can be brutal. It can be ok under some circumstances because you kind of expect to see really bright highlights and dramatic shadows on a sunny day at the beach. Notice that to get a decent exposure on her face, the sunny side of her hair and legs are completely overexposed and blown out. Her eyes remain underexposed, and a reflector still needs to be used to fill in her eye sockets. Shooting in the harsh sun is brutal I tell you! Just brutal!
If you’re trying to get any kind of beauty shot with even exposure, you need to control that sun. One option is to find shade under a big beach umbrella! I moved her under one but you can see the ugly outline of the umbrella. I later moved the model to have her entirely in shade and not have the distracting difference between sun and shade here, but I wanted to show you the difference between the sun and shade.
The ideal solution is to wait for the “golden hour” which is roughly the hour before sunset (or the hour after sunrise) (but hating mornings, I see that morning golden hour as little as possible thank you!). During the golden hour, the sun is low on the horizon and the light has to go through much more junk in the atmosphere which softens the light and turns it into magnificently soft and beautiful color.
The model above was not able to stay that late, but here’s one who was able to. Look at the beautiful, soft light, and check how calm the water is, too: