Many new photographers think bright sunny days are the best times for taking portraiture. When shooting portraits in direct sunlight, we actually have several lighting obstacles that need to be taken into consideration.
Photography Tips For Direct Sunlight
One problem with shooting in direct overhead sunlight is that the light falling on our subjects is extremely harsh. When shooting portraits, this harsh light is far less flattering and can emphasize blemishes in the skin. In order to solve this issue, a photographer needs to diffuse the direct sunlight.
One simple method, which is extremely effective, is to move the subject into the shade of a large object such as a building. Another photography technique is to block the light directly above the subject. A 4×6 collapsible reflector is perfect for this. Have another person hold the reflector in position to block the harsh light from hitting the subject. This will give you a nice soft light which is especially flattering on children and female subjects.
You won’t always be able to move into the shade when confronted with direct sunlight. In these situations, many of our problems relate to the eyes. When harsh overhead light strikes the subject, dark shadows are produced in the eye sockets. This is often referred to as raccoon eyes. Using a speedlight will allow you to create fill light which kicks light back into the eyes. In some cases, only a white, silver, or gold reflector placed in front of the subject is needed to reflect enough of the overhead light back up into the face to solve the issue.
Additionally, you might want to combine the above techniques. Placing the subject in the shade of a building while using a reflector to kick additional light into the subjects face can have beautiful results. You might also want to move out of the shade, block the light overhead with a reflector, and use another reflector or speedlight to create a fill light effect. Direct sunlight can be challenging and having the right tools for the specific lighting conditions is vital to producing professional portraits.
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