Lighting is everything when it comes taking great natural light portraits. Early morning sunrise or golden hour sunset is my favorite time of day to photograph. If you’re a photographer, it’s a no brain-er why this time is a favorite and a go-to when it comes to scheduling your photo sessions: soft and warm tones, less harsh shadows, and the light is just more amazing during sunrise and sunset. But unfortunately, not all wedding days and photo sessions can be scheduled around golden hour. Sometimes shooting in the middle of the afternoon on a bright clear day is your only option. To help keep your images light, warm, and airy, here are 6 tips for shooting in harsh or bright sunlight.
Also, I am sharing tips based on my photographic style. There are other methods to use such as fill flash and off camera flash, but for creating light and natural photos, these methods are for you.
6 tips for shooting in harsh or bright sunlight
- Find shade
The number one thing I do first when shooting in harsh light is look for shade. Shadows on my subjects are distracting, and I like to eliminate them as much as possible. The side of a building, underneath a deck, or under trees or big shrubs are great options. Be careful when choosing trees as your shade. You want to make sure the sun doesn’t peek out through the branches and leave harsh splotches of shadows on your subjects skin. Take your time, and move around to make sure your subject is fully shaded.
- Create your own shade
If you are in an area where the shaded spots are few and far between, create your own shade! Using a reflector is not just for bouncing light towards your subject, but can also be used to block harsh light. I use this method when I portraits up close, and want to create even skin tones. For this shot, a hand held reflector was used to block the harsh sun from the client’s face, leaving her skin tone smooth and even.
- Use a reflector or find natural reflectors to bounce light up
Using a hand held reflector to bounce light onto your subjects face will fill in those harsh shadows and create a more even skin tone. If you don’t have a hand held reflector, look for natural reflectors such as light colored sidewalks, pavements, or beige colored gravel. This was taken in a park where splotchy shadows were everywhere! Using the reflector to bounce light onto their faces created an even light.
- Angle their bodies and faces away from the sun
Sometimes there will be scenarios where there isn’t any shade AND you can’t use a hand held reflector. For these, angling your subject’s bodies and faces away from the sun will help create an even skin tone.
- Expose for the face
When an image is underexposed, details of the face are more visible: little imperfections, blemishes, pores, wrinkles, etc. To get bright and soft skin-tones during midday light, over expose so the light on your subjects face is nice and even.
- Have the couple block the sun from one another
If the groom is taller, have him standing so his back is towards the sun and block the harsh sunlight from his bride’s face. You can do this by having them kiss, snuggle, or just getting really close 🙂