Harsh Sunlight Portrait Photography: 4 Tips

When offered a choice to set up a photo shoot, you’ll most likely schedule it in the early morning or around sunset. The soft light flatters the subject and surroundings and makes your work a lot easier. But what if you need to take first look photos at high noon? As a professional, you need to be ready to shoot in any conditions. Wedding photographer Vanessa Joy with Adorama shares four tips for taking pictures in harsh sunlight:

1. Use a Reflector Diffuser

Take the diffuser out of the reflector and have your assistant hold it over the subject’s head. Tilt it slowly and you’ll notice that it gives a look similar to that of clamshell lighting. The diffuser prevents direct sunlight from striking your subject and instead molds it into beautiful, soft, and flattering light.

using a diffusor in harsh sunlight

portrait with diffusor in harsh sunlight

2. Find Some Shade

Look for a place behind a house, wall, or tree and have your subject stand in the shade. Then, using a reflector, fill in the shadows on the subject. Be careful that the reflector doesn’t create hot spots on your subject.

photographing in shade during harsh sunlight

portrait in shade using reflector

3. Go High Contrast

Make the most of what you’re presented with. Instead of loathing the harsh sunlight and avoiding it, try to take a high contrast image. You can later turn it into black and white for a dramatic effect.

high contrast image during harsh sunlight

4. Use Off-Camera Flash

“It’s almost like hiding in shade and using reflector, but instead you don’t have to hide.”

Position your subject with the sun at their back and then fill in the shadows with off-camera flash. Be sure to set the power and use modifiers depending on the sun’s brightness. One trick is to set the exposure for the background and then set the flash to auto (TTL) mode.

overpowering the sun with flash

portrait taken with flash in sunlight

“This is especially useful if you have to photograph large groups of people, and there’s not enough shade to get them all to hide in.”

With these four easy-to-follow tips, you’ll never have to worry about taking photos in the harsh sun again!

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