Happy May! We finally made it to Spring, which means outdoor photography is in full swing! While I love being able to photograph with beautiful landscape and flowers, my first priority from a technical standpoint is light, not location. A common problem photographers encounter during Spring and Summer months is shooting in direct, harsh sunlight. Session photographers can have the luxury of scheduling all their sessions during golden hour. However, wedding photographers and other event photographers must shoot around the clock. And when you’re on vacation with your family, it’s not practical to only shoot when there’s golden light. In this blog entry, I will empower you with three photography tips to handle harsh light so your pictures can look creamy, dreamy and your skin tone flattering and true to life!
1. Face the Shadow
The first rule when photographing during harsh light is to place your subjects so that they are facing their shadow. This will create gorgeous back lighting for the photograph as well as make sure your subjects won’t be squinting their eyes due to the harsh sunlight. Make sure that the back light hits their hair and not their faces. We absolutely want to prevent spotty light where parts of their face are in the shadow and parts are exposed to direct light. The goal is to always have even light on their face and body. Backlighting creates beautiful glow and helps make your subjects pop out of the image.
2. Use Body Blocking
When you’re photographing more than one subject, you can employ the idea of body blocking. That is, let the taller subject block the sun and create a shadow to ensure even light and flattering skin tone. The taller person (typically the man) would block the sun with the back of his head so that he himself will be in the shade as well. This scenario works particularly well if the female subject gets close and nuzzles with the male subject. Think Eskimo kisses! 🙂
3. Diffuse Harsh Light
Often times, you will be surrounded by trees that can naturally diffuse the harsh light so you have a more beautiful, even glow to illuminate your subjects. Try to place your subjects toward their shadow and in front of trees that can diffuse the light. If you have an assistant, s/he can hold a reflector to help diffuse light. A reflector is your best tool to manipulate natural light, on both sunny and cloudy days.
I hope these tips are beneficial to you as you continue on your photography journey, whether as a professional or hobbyist. Go forth with confidence that you can capture beautiful portraits, no matter the time of day as long as the sun is still out. 🙂 Below is a photo I took of my sister at NOON, right in front of her house. Despite the harshest light scenario, her skin tone is soft and even because I was able to find natural light diffusers. 🙂