I'll be developing a documentary photo and video project on farming communities which live +3000 meters above sea level, based mostly on portraits and images of everyday life. At that elevation, the sun is really strong, producing sharp shadows and high constrast most of the day.

I'll be working alone, and my lighting equipment is: one Yongnuo YN-568EX II flash, a small 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser, and a thermal blanket (yes, I said a thermal blanket, it's a thin plastic [mylar] blanket covered with reflective material, designed for body heat keeping but perfectly useful for light bouncing).

I'll be mostly working on open locations, having no near buildings to act as reflective surfaces.

I won't be able to suit all of my work at dawn and dusk golden hours, as I depend on the times of farmers' activities.

Which is the best way to ensure having well-lit subjects, avoiding hard shades from wiping out their expressions, or hats shading completely their faces, whithout getting too artificial-looking images?

In case this can't be achieved, are there ways of creatively using those shadows? I'd be glad to know examples.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Have you thought of making a scrim? \$\endgroup\$
    – OnBreak.
    Jul 27, 2019 at 15:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! I haven't. That might be a possible chance, as farmers possibly will have materials to make one \$\endgroup\$
    – Lisan
    Jul 27, 2019 at 17:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know about your style but confining existing strong hard light for backlight allows you to concentrate your efforts to shoot faces with reflected or flash fill which can be more easily controlled. \$\endgroup\$
    – Stan
    Jul 28, 2019 at 2:43

1 Answer 1


Your instincts seem pretty good already. I don't know about "best", which is subjective, but your basic options are one or more of:

  1. Make the incoming light less intense and/or more diffuse. E.g.:
    1. Use a scrim as mentioned in the comment above.
    2. Film in existing or created partial shade. E.g. in a barn with open doors, under a tree, etc. (Though you ruled out artificial structures.)
  2. Enhance or create lower-angle light, to counteract the shadows. E.g.
    1. Carry a fill light, which could qualify as "basic" equipment depending on your situation and requirements.
    2. Carry or borrow a very light-colored and/or reflective blanket, sheet, paper, etc. - to place below the subject but out of camera view. This alone can be pretty effective. Your mylar blanket would work, but depending on how irregular the surface is, might cast unacceptable bright splotches randomly. A tyvek blanket, or nylon sheet, can be great for filling in light under hats.
  3. You said this wasn't an option, but just to reiterate one of the best natural options, film when the sun is low on the horizon, and/or just after sunset or before sunrise. (Obviously at high and dry mountain elevations, such soft light may not last very long.) Do the farmers start work very early?

You've probably considered these very options and are more asking if there's a better "best-practice". But I think your existing instincts are on the "right" track.


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