If there’s anything we can expect outside every day, all day, it’s the sunshine. I don’t know about you guys, but I haven’t seen a single cloud in over a month. When you want to take photos on hot summer days, early morning or late afternoon are certainly the best options. But sometimes you just can’t choose, and the harsh midday sun is the only lighting you’re left with.
The sweat stains you get from the scorching midday sun aren’t the only unflattering thing it gives you. It’s also the worst portrait lighting you can imagine. However, there are ways to work with it and still get some awesome portraits. And in this video from Adorama, Gavin Hoey will give you as many as five ways to do it.
1. Find the shade: get out of the sun and find a shade. First of all, this gives you a nice, even exposure on the subject’s face. And of course, it’s more comfortable for your model than the full midday sun. If the background is in the sun, it will be bright, just make sure not to blow it out.
2. Create your own shade: if there’s no shade in your location, you can always make your own. Make sure to bring a diffuser and create the shade with it. Alternatively, you can use a 5-in-1 reflector and use its diffuser to create the shade.
The downside of this approach is, well – someone has to hold the diffuser and someone has to shoot. So, bring a volunteer to help you… Or just bring a light stand.
3. Expose for the highlights: there’s no shade, you didn’t bring a diffuser, and the sun is showing no intention to stop shining with full power. Well, if everything else fails: expose for the highlights. Otherwise, you’ll lose details in the face if it gets overexposed and you won’t be able to retrieve them.
Keep in mind that you’ll still get some unflattering shadows under the eyes and the nose… But hey, it’s still better than nothing.
4. Shoot into the sun: when your model faces the sun, it gives you the best light to work with if there’s no shade as an alternative. However, it’s very uncomfortable for the model as the sun will keep blinding them and making them squint.
In this case, you need to sacrifice your own comfort in order to get good shots (and the model who doesn’t wish to kill you). Even though this kind of backlight is usually a no-no, you can take some steps to make it work. Make sure that your lens is 100% clean and use a lens hood to avoid any strange flares. If you have a dark background, this technique can work great, with the sun acting as the hair light.
5. Use a flash: finally, you can overpower the sun with artificial lighting. Create the shade for the model with a softbox, and then fill in that shade with diffused flash. You can find a bunch of articles here on DIYP that will help you master this technique.