This is a dread and a fear for many photographers, but it doesn’t have to be! After a decade of photographing families, I have had sessions in less than ideal lighting situations. I don’t try to schedule sessions in the middle of the day, but circumstances arrive and scheduling sessions while traveling sometimes lends us to photographing while the sun is pretty high and there may not be much shade to utilize. I have a few tips that I have learned over the years that have helped me while photographing in full sun that I am sharing with you below!
Keep the Sun Behind Your Subject
I try to keep the sun behind my subject when photographing in harsh light. This helps me avoid squinty eyes and dark shadows under the eyes and noses. There is only a very short period of time where the sun is directly overhead. Other than that, the sun is usually at a bit of an angle so you can position your subjects to have the sun behind them.
Keep Light Consistent
When photographing in full sun, try to keep everyone in the same light. Either have everyone in the bright sun, or if you have shade, have everyone in the shade. Try to avoid half of a family in harsh light and the other half in the shade. Your images will look more cohesive if you can keep everyone in similar light.
I like to have the families I photograph interact with each other. This is helpful in bright sun so they are don’t feel the need to stare at me and squint! They are typically looking at each other, looking down or at something the are doing. If I want someone to look at my camera, I ask them to close their eyes and when I count to 3 they open and look at the camera. I love this for a mother hugging her baby. I would take the photo of her looking down, then ask her to look directly at me. Close her eyes and when I count to 3, open and stare right into my lens with a light smile. This will avoid crinkly, squinty eyes. Kids who can count love this too and it often results in smiles when they get to “3”!
Light colors on the ground like white sidewalks and light sand will bounce the light back up to your subjects faces, lightening the shadows under eyes and noses. The same is true with a light colored wall. It will reflect that color or brightness back toward your subject. I try to use natural reflectors whenever they are available when photographing in harsh light!
Try photographing your own family or friends in harsh light. I love to bring my camera to the beach with all the light sand to act as a giant, natural reflector. Experiment using shadows in interesting ways. Have fun with it! The sky photographs beautifully during the day, enhancing it’s bright blue hue and the colors in the environment are often more vibrant in bright sun. I hope you can use these tips the next time you photograph someone in full sun!
Was this information helpful? Find more photography tips on the blog!
Tag me in your stories on instagram @rootedlovephoto so I can see what you create!