Taking Photos of People After Sunset

two women sitting in a red car and laughing together

When the sun goes down, how do you light a photo?

Did you know that sometimes I see strangers and I really want to photograph them? Well I do – I probably would want to photograph you if I saw you just now. But only occasionally I get up the courage to ask someone if I could please photograph them. And that was the case when I saw K and A sitting on the grass having a rest from their job this week. I was trying to find a cafe someone had recommended to me, so I approached these ladies to ask if they knew where it was. As I got closer and could see their faces I knew that I wanted to make some photos with them. Of course, being busy women, they couldn’t meet me until after 5pm, but they knew a park that would be a good setting. But of course, me being bad with directions, I didn’t get there until late, and couldn’t find them. And me being bad with writing down numbers I rang a complete random stranger and she wanted to know why I had texted her about a photo shoot. So there I was ready to take photos but there was no-one to photograph, and I couldn’t contact them because I had the wrong phone number. But then my phone rang (thank goodness they had my number) and they wondered where I was – well I didn’t know there were two entrances to the park, and I was at the wrong entrance! Anyway, all that rambling was just to say that by the time the lovely ladies arrived, it was well and truly too dark to take the photos I had envisaged.

Photo of two women sitting in a red car and the driver is looking out the open window with her arm resting on the opening.

The first artificial light we tried was the light from the interior light in the car and the vanity mirror lights, which turned out to be quite yellow. But I loved a couple of the photos that had a bit of a “Thelma and Louise” feel to them.

A dark black and white image of two women sitting in a car with the driver's arm resting on the window ledge.

I tried making a black-and-white version of one of these photos, and I think it has quite a different feeling from the ones dominated by the red colour of the car.

photo of two women wearing pink hi-vis and white hard-hats looking at their phones and leaning on a yellow barrier.

I didn’t have a camera flash with me, as I was travelling light, and I didn’t even have a torch because I wasn’t in my own car; but we all carry a torch with us, don’t we? Although on the iPhone it is called a ‘flashlight’, I believe. I opened up a white screen on my iPhone, and gave it to K to hold, and A opened her phone too. We used that light to add interest to some photos shot near some plastic barriers near where some construction was happening. It seemed appropriate with the hi-vis and hard-hats.

For individual photos one of them would act as the ‘lighting assistant’ while pointing the iPhone torch at the other. Not an ideal method of lighting a subject, but at least it put some light on their faces.

Photo of a lady in her 50s wearing a hard-had and pink hi-vis vest. She has one hand on her hip and is looking at the camera, showing facial piercings.
One female worker wearing hi-vis and denim with a white hard-had. She is standing with one foot up on a yellow safety barrier.

In the end, what I thought was going to be a missed opportunity turned out to be a lot of fun, and I came away with a handful of photos that I think are pretty good!