Taking Photos In Harsh Sunlight

As the days get longer and the temperature starts warming up, couples and families across the country gear up for beautiful photo shoots. From the blooming flowers and lush greenery, everything about sunny photos can be beautiful. But this can also mean clicking photos in direct sunlight.

For almost every photographer, clicking photos in harsh direct sunlight can be like mixing oil and water. Harsh light is very bright and tends to occur during midday. It can also cast sharp shadows that can ultimately disturb your photographs.

Most photographers would avoid clicking pictures during times when the natural light is at its brightest for this reason. But as a portrait or wedding photographer in Cincinnati, OH, it might not be always possible to have a choice. Sometimes situations might force you to shoot under glaring bright daylight without any alternative. Hence it is always useful to prepare for such situations. In this article, we will talk about certain tips for photography in harsh sunlight.

Taking Pictures in Harsh Sunlight:

  • Create your own shade: One of the best ways to avoid direct sunlight is to create your own shade. Use an umbrella or any other big object like cardboard cut out to cast a shadow on your subject and block out the glaring sunlight. For instance, if you are out on a beach photography session, you can incorporate surfboards or beach umbrellas in your photographs to create shades.
  • Shoot in manual mode: Putting your camera in manual mode can properly expose the skin tones of your subject in harsh sunlight. With contemporary smart cameras, there will be a lot of light bouncing around your subject making it difficult to get an accurate reading with your light meter. Hence program mode or aperture priority mode of your camera might completely disturb the photographs. To avoid clicking underexposed photos, always shoot in manual mode in bright sunlight.
  • Use a fill flash: Fill flashes can be very helpful when you have strong shadows on your subjects. Your camera might underexpose your subject by thinking that there is enough light for the photograph and finally turning them into silhouettes with a bright backdrop. When you shoot using a fill flash, it allows you to fill in the dark parts with light by adding to the direct sunlight. It is helpful in eliminating shadows that are cast by your subject’s hat, sunglasses, nose, or sun visor.
  • Widen your aperture: Harsh sunlight can highlight even the tiniest facial details like discoloration, blemishes, pimples, and wrinkles which might look very unflattering. So soft in the light on your subject’s skin to even the skin tone. You can shoot between f/1.2 and f/2.5 so that the wide aperture helps to soften the skin tones in harsh sunlight.
  • Reflect the sunlight: Use a reflector in place of a fill flash to sufficiently light up your subject. You can use a white sheet, cardboard, or anything that reflects lights as your reflector.
  • Use spot metering: For creating a softer skin tone, switch your camera to spot metering so that the meter won’t lie to you and expose the skin properly. Your light meter will try to expose the small areas in the center of the frame while trying to expose the entire photo which can help you to create even skin tones.
  • Go for wide angles: Instead of capturing your subjects up close under harsh sunlight, go for wide-angle shots. Although shadows will be visible and fill flash might not make it any better, there is a higher chance of creating better-looking photos under the midday sun at wide angles.
  • Match the background exposure to skin exposure: It can be tough to expose your subjects correctly in bright sunlight as the background and the subject are at different levels of exposure. In this case, find shooting locations where the subject’s exposure matches the background or use the flash to create the exposure levels you want.
  • Click silhouettes: Silhouettes are always beautiful, dramatic, and mysterious. Take a silhouette of your subject by setting your camera’s exposure on the brightest part of the scene. While doing so make sure your subject is not carrying any extra props to create a better silhouetted-figure outline.

Without light, there can be no photograph. And direct sunlight can feel like too much brightness. So photographers would naturally need to create, manipulate, use, and block the light to create professional-looking portraits. Sometimes your client might be a couple who is looking for a summer afternoon engagement photo shoot or a family at the beach having a picnic during the mid-day. You will be left with no option in such cases. But the above-mentioned tips and methods can help you to click beautiful photographs even when the sun is shining at its brightest and casting horrible shadows.

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