How to Shoot Good Portraits in Harsh Sunlight

Shooting photos with invasive sunlight can be frustrating and often creates unwanted shadows and contrast. As a general rule, the best time to take portraits is right after a sunrise or right before the sunset. For more on finding the best angle during a sunny day, here is a video tutorial with some tips for portrait photographers:

When the sun is directly overhead, it creates harsh shadows on your subject’s face. The sun may shine brightest on his or her nose but leave out the eyes for an undesired look. The goal is to even out the light on the face to lower the contrast and eliminate unnecessary shadows.


If you turn your subject around, the light only hits their hair and back of the head. This creates a more flattering look and gets rid of excess shadows.

sunlight photo shadows contrast


As David Bergman explains, if the sunlight can’t be manipulated to your desired effect and there aren’t any backlit angles in any direction, bring your subject into the shade by using a building or tree. Another thing to watch out for now is the background. The viewer’s eye generally goes to the brightest part of the frame first. In this case, make sure the background is dark so that your subject’s face pops off the screen and that there’s no distraction from background objects.

sunlight photo portrait subject

These general rules will help any portrait photographers adapt to the sunlight when they’re shooting midday and don’t have help creating a backdrop or structure for blocking out the sun.

“The key to making good images is to learn to read the light and work with it instead of fighting against it.”

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