Shooting Portraits In Harsh Midday Sun

When I first started photography, shooting at noon with no shade terrified me because my first photo shoots didn't turn out so well. I got bags under their eyes, green casts on their skin, spotty lighting, squinting, harsh shadows, and more!


To show you exactly what I mean, here are some photos from my first year of photography shot at noon. Special thank you to my friends who let me practice on them in the beginning.


In an ideal world, it would be sunset all the time so that we could have those nice glowy photos at any time of the day. However, sometimes the timing of portrait sessions and weddings don't work out that way. So how do you get soft airy photos during midday sun?


Find The Shade

 This is the easiest option, and is more extensively covered in my light and airy guide (click HERE to download it)! This option works both for your phone and DSLR.


What if there's no shade?

 Face your clients AWAY from the sun so their shadow is in front of them. It's best if the floor in front of them is a light color, so it acts as a natural reflector to bounce light back onto their face. I don't bring any reflectors (those things that look like giant car shades) to my shoots since I try to keep things as simple as possible, so I try to look for natural reflectors instead.


Shoot In RAW 

 If you try to turn your client away from the sun, and take a photo on your phone, you might notice that the subject doesn't come out. That's because phones and cameras are typically set to shoot in JPEG. The best way to balance highlights and shadows is to shoot in RAW instead. The reason this isn't the default is that you need editing programs like Lightroom to read these files. (Click HERE to download my Lightroom quick start guide)


When you shoot in RAW, you'll be able to control the shadows and highlights a lot better than shooting in JPEG! Above left is the RAW image, and the right is the photo after editing.


Tiffany, I only have my smart phone. What can I do if I don't have a DSLR or Lightroom?


Since my blog is also for people just starting out with photography, I wanted to write out some tips in case you aren't a professional photographer.


In this case, you'll want to embrace the sun! You want to make sure both the subject and background are lit by the sun. For example, you don't want the subject to be in the shade while the background is really bright. Likewise, you don't want the subject to be bright and the background to be dark.


Below is a smart phone example of my brother and cousins on Chinese New Years. The sun is lighting both them and the background.

Is it possible to get the light and airy look from your phone?


When you turn your subjects away from the sun with your phone, they'll often be dark or have a sun flare like the photo of my family below.

The best way to use the facing away from the sun trick on your phone is to crop out the bright part! When you click on your face using your smart phone, the phone will adjust the brightness to your face. Your phone will have an easier time since you're limiting the amount of sunlight coming into it.

The left is an example of bad lighting because we're in the shade while the background is bright, so we're dark. The right photo was taken right next to this spot. It's a closer photo that crops out the bright background, and allows our faces to be brighter! Our shadows are in front of us, and we were able to get a light and airy selfie.

Click HERE to see more photos from our Japan trip

Click HERE to see my tips for taking vacation photos


I hope this helps! Comment below with any struggles you've had with harsh light! Email with any questions you want answered in future blogs.


For more FREE photography education, visit my resources page here







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