Even though harsh midday sun is far from an ideal lighting situation, sometimes you’ll have no other choice. In this video, Jay P. Morgan shows you four ways to make the best of that direct sunlight and turn it into your advantage. He demonstrates three setups that only use the sunlight, and the fourth one adds a strobe to the equation. But in all cases, you’ll end up with great portraits even in the otherwise unflattering direct sunlight.
When you’re in the harsh sunlight, one of the solutions is to go and find shade. But, this means that you need to change location. And if you like the location you’re at – here are the ways to use the direct sunlight to your advantage.
1. Use sunlight as the key light
This will give you a harsh, dramatic light. You can tone it down by using a reflector to fill in the shadows on the face.
The advantage of this approach is that you don’t need to carry a lot of lighting gear. You can just work with what you have. The disadvantage is that the direct sunlight is really harsh for the skin. All the flaws are visible and you’ll have to “retouch like crazy” as Jay puts it. Also, the sun isn’t always in the same place so you can’t always use it as the key light you’d like to have.
2. Use sunlight as the back/rim light
This is Jay’s favorite way to use the direct sunlight for portraits and he points out that you can pull it off easily when the sun is higher in the sky. But when it comes really low, it will get into the shot and you can use it as a flare, and it will be a “major player” as Jay puts it. Again, you can use a reflector to get more light on the model’s face.
A disadvantage of this approach is that you can’t choose the background because you’re positioning the model in relation to the sun.
3. Use a translucent reflector
You can take the light off of your subject by adding a translucent reflector above your subject. This will diffuse the sunlight and give you beautiful, soft light on the model’s face. On the minus side, a translucent creates a shadow on the ground, so it’s difficult to shoot full body shots. You have to work out how to hide this line so it’s not obvious in the photos.
4. Use a strobe and a translucent reflector
Finally, you can add a strobe and gain a complete control over the lighting situation. You can use the strobe to light the model’s face and you control how bright you want both the model and the background to be. That control you have is, obviously, the advantage of this setup.
The most obvious disadvantage is that you have to have a strobe, and you also should be able to use high speed sync.
Now tell me, how do you pull off portraits in direct sunlight? Do you use any o these techniques, or there’s another method you prefer?
[Laws of Light: Shooting in Direct Sun | The Slanted Lens]
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