5 Tips for Photography in Harsh Lighting Conditions

Photographers love to shoot during the golden hours for multiple reasons. The soft light creates soft shadows and the vibrant colors pop to life. However, we can’t expect ideal shooting conditions all the time, can we? For most of the day, the sun can be harsh, which makes taking photos a real challenge. Photographer Kayleigh June shares her five top tips for photographing in harsh midday light:

1. Keep the Lighting Even

Uneven lighting and harsh shadows can be a big challenge when shooting in the midday sun.

Angle the model’s body toward the sun, especially the face, so that minimal shadows are formed. If any shadows cannot be avoided, try to minimize them so that some can be retouched in post.

2. Use a Reflector

Using a reflector is the most economical method of reducing harsh shadows while maintaining a natural look. Reflectors work best for harsh light when the model is backlit.

no reflector

Midday portrait without a reflector

reflector bright sunlight

Using a reflector in harsh sunlight brightens the model’s face.

3. Create Your Own Shade

Shade is a photographer’s best friend in the middle of the day. When no shade is available, improvisation is key. Hold a reflector over your models head to create your own shade.

create shade with reflector

Create your own shade.

4. Underexpose Your Images & Shoot RAW

Most cameras do a fantastic job of recovering shadow details, and it’s easy to blow out the highlights during a midday shoot. June recommends that you shoot RAW and underexpose your shots slightly.

5. Count the Model In

While working in the harsh sun, models may have trouble with their expressions and opening their eyes while they’re facing the sun. You can make their work easier by counting them in (1-2-3) so they know exactly when to open their eyes and give their expressions.

While shooting midday may not be the most ideal, sometimes you can’t avoid it. Instead of losing hope, try to make the best out of the situation and deliver the best results. Challenges are what will bring out the best in you. As June says:

“It’s not always the easiest thing to do but a lot of the time it’s something that most photographers will have to come across at least at some point—having to shoot at the middle of the day. It’s not fun but sometimes it just needs to be done that way.”

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