(Most serious portrait photographers try to avoid midday lighting at all costs, and for good reason: the harsh light is better than down on subjects and generates wildly unflattering shadows. )
However , you won’t always get to select when and where your own portrait sessions take place – so it pays to know several tips and tricks for managing that harsh midday sun.
In this article, I actually share my best information for doing midday portrait photography. And while midday light is rarely ideal, if you utilize the tips and techniques I reveal below, your images will be a lot improved.
Let us do this!
1 . Backlight your subjects
…but did you know that you can furthermore use backlight in the late morning plus early afternoon? As long as sunlight is slightly angled, then backlighting is possible, and it is a great way to keep your subjects looking good in harsh, bright light.
You see, by backlights your subjects, you keep immediate sun off their looks, and you also avoid those weird shadows that occur underneath the eyebrows, nose, and face.
Backlighting will also help keep your own subjects from squinting, which is a big problem during midday sessions.
So simply discover the sun, then position your own subjects so they’re facing away from the light. You may get lens flare , but I’m actually a fan of the look:
One word of caution:
When you are working with backlighting, your choice of history may be limited. But make sure you put in extra effort to find a complementary, non-distracting backdrop; otherwise, while your subjects may look great, the background will attract the viewer’s eye.
2 . Use reflectors
The biggest issue with midday portrait photography is the shadows , which fall under the eyes, nasal area, and chin and can keep subjects from looking their finest.
Fortunately, we now have an easy tool to dial back unflattering shadow areas: reflectors .
Reflectors are usually flat expanses of material – generally white, gold, or gold – that reflect light back on to the subject. They’re extremely inexpensive, though if you’d prefer not to spend extra money, you can always make a reflector or 2 with a bit of poster panel.
During your photoshoot, angle the reflector therefore sunlight fills in the dark areas; that way, you’ll get a lot more flattering image.
You can get similar results using natural reflectors, such as a white wall structure or even white sand:
In fact , natural reflectors include huge parking lots, sidewalks, windows, silver precious metal or white cars, structures with silver or reflective paneling, light-colored cement walls/floors, and so much more!
One notice: If you use a shiny reflector, make sure not to aim the particular reflected light directly into your subject’s eyes. It can be really bright, almost as strong since direct sunlight , and you don’t want to cause discomfort!
And don’t place your reflector on a lawn in front of your client. This can cause the light to jump upward and give you odd, unflattering shadows on the face. Instead, use a stand, or ask a friend to hold the reflector around torso elevation.
3. Use a scrim to diffuse the sunshine
A scrim is a piece of clear fabric that diffuses the light, and by positioning a scrim between the light source and your issue, you can create a soft, even effect that looks amazing in portraits.
Note that you can purchase scrims on-line; in fact , most 5-in-1 reflectors come with a translucent side, which can be used as a scrim.
(You can also create your own scrim using translucent fabric and a hula hoop. )
During your photoshoot, simply hold the scrim more than your client’s face or body. It’ll diffuse the bright sun, and you’ll get a very nice effect.
Pay attention to the background, however. If the background is lighter than your subjects, it’ll turn out overexposed. Try to complement the light on the background towards the light on your client !
4. Slightly underexpose your subject
Harsh sunlight tends to wash out the picture, which makes for a colorless, boring, unpleasant background:
Fortunately, a bit of underexposure can go a long way towards maintaining beautiful background shades and tones. And underexposure will ensure you retain details that’ll otherwise get trimmed.
Of course , underexposure will also result in too-dark subjects; that’s why, after a portrait session, you should fine-tune the exposure in post-processing. Bring up the shadows in your editing program of choice, and you’ll get a beautiful outcome:
five. Use display to lighten up your subjects
Many beginners are intimidated by
For one, an extra pop associated with light can handily dispel unwanted shadows. Plus, a bit of flash will help you correctly show for a bright background and get great detail on your main subject:
Since you will be competing with the shiny midday sun, point your own flash directly at your customers to make sure the light reaches all of them. And set your flash to 1/8th power or more. That way, you can light your clients without causing an discrepancy with the background.
Pro tip: Once you get good at making use of basic
6. Occurs camera’s “Shade” white balance preset
White balance is all about developing images with accurate colors, so you may be wondering:
Why would I ever want to shoot midday portraits while using the Shade white stability option? After all, isn’t the Shade preset meant to shoot in, well, shade ?
And you’re right:
The Shade white balance preset is designed to operate shady conditions. But in the experience, Shade actually helps keep skin shades looking even .
Everyone these days, especially when shooting at midday; the bright sun may cause all sorts of skin tone issues, and if you’re not really careful, you may run into severe problems.
Note that you can always tweak the particular white balance when editing in a program like Lightroom or Photoshop (assuming that you’re shooting in
7. Embrace the high-contrast look
Portraits taken in vivid sunlight look unpleasantly high contrast .
But what if, instead of trying to eliminate the high-contrast lighting, you embraced this?
For instance, you might position your subjects straight under shadows for an awesome effect. Or you might front light your subjects to highlight interesting details. Or else you might use harsh sidelight for an intense, in-your-face result.
Here are a few examples of high-contrast midday portraits:
You can also use hats, hand leaves, water, and other interesting elements to create different effects. Experiment with your flash in various positions. And try such as the sun as a clear compositional element!
Allow your own backgrounds to go dark or wash out completely. Utilize the midday sun to highlight details that you like. Use dark areas to hide details that are entertaining.
There are plenty of ways to level up your own portraiture with high-contrast lights. So experiment, have fun, and see what you can create!
8. Put your clients in the shade
Sure, you might be stuck photographing with midday…
…but you’re not stuck directly in the sun, right? Instead of doing work in bright sunlight, look for a tinted area, then position your subject away from the severe light.
You don’t need much shade; just enough to cover your own clients. Tall buildings, huge trees, and tall walls can all get the job done !
For the best outcomes, try combining shaded gentle with a large reflector (either natural or artificial). Position the subject close to the reflector, and use it to fill in the dark areas while also letting the particular shade reduce the light intensity.
Be sure you expose for your client’s encounter and not the background. That way, the skin tones will look nice set up background washes out.
Midday portrait photography tips: final words
Midday light certainly isn’t ideal regarding portrait photography, but you can utilize it to create different and interesting photos.
So practice shooting in bright light. Bring along a reflector, a flash, and a scrim.
Plus capture some amazing pictures!
Now over to you:
Do you like to photograph within harsh sunlight? How do you plan to handle your next midday portrait session? Share your thoughts in the comments below!