After 5 years of photographing on the most beautiful campus on earth (and now working as JMU’s photographer full-time) I’ve collected some nuggets of wisdom. Juggling light has become second-hand, and I’d love to share some of the pros and cons of shooting on the quad throughout the day.
For consistency, the goal is to have even lighting on your subject and your background (bonus points if you get the signature golden halo). To preface, there’s no right or wrong way to approach this juggling of light, but this is my thought process to get the fairly consistent look I try to achieve with each session.
Morning, Mid-day, or Evening?
In any option, my trick is always facing the grad away from the sun whenever possible! Some icons on campus you may not be blessed with that option, so take it as it comes & deal with the harsh shadows for memories sake for a couple images (Little Jimmy, a certain academic hall, etc). My goal is to be as transparent as I can be, so I’m going to show some examples of different locations throughout the day.
Notice my placement of my subject in the bluestone archways & the fountain as the sun placement changes.
I love shooting in the morning (with my job nowadays, it’s not the most realistic for scheduling) but I’m always a fan of the clean light, and the sun behind Wilson. It’s usually chilly this time of spring (I always tell my grads to bring layers to throw on between locations), but most spots on the quad are much more evenly lit & ✨glowy✨
Mid-day. Let’s be honest, this is never ideal if it’s not a cloudy day. But with strategic placement of the grad, it’s still possible to come up with a good lighting situation! As I said earlier, I always place my grads facing away from the sun, so try the same here when you’re struggling with shadows and to get the iconic back light hair halo.
Evening is when I shoot the most! Also called ✨golden hour (and a half)✨ This seems to be the best bet for scheduling, and the glow vibes are 🤌🏼. I typically aim to shoot 2 hours before the sun sets in the valley. The main downside is that Wilson is usually blown out, so I would suggest shooting those images last after the sun is settled behind some of the bluestone buildings (which I actually did not do in this case!)
Whether you’re a photographer strategizing his/her schedule, or a grad booking with a photographer, I hope this can give you a better idea and/or inspiration for what kind of lighting to expect on campus throughout the day.