How to defy convention and shoot in harsh light

Jul 27, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

How to defy convention and shoot in harsh light

Jul 27, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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For many photographers, harsh light is the worst. Whether you shoot landscapes or portraits, we’re told one of the worst times of day you can shoot is noon when the sun is up high in the sky.

Photographer Roman Fox, however, is here to change your mind. In this video, Roman shows us how we can take advantage of the harshness of bright daylight sun and how we can utilise it better when everything is fully lit.

Harsh light bad! – or not

I’m not like most photographers. I love going out to photograph people in conditions we’re typically told are aesthetically unfavourable – like clear days with bright harsh sunlight. You can get some great contrasty and unusual looks that just wouldn’t be possible any other way.

Never shooting during harsh light is one of those “rules” we need to understand. We need to understand it in order to learn how to break it effectively. Breaking it allows us to explore the world in a way that many other photographers avoid, and it can often result in some very special photographs.

Simplify your scene

Roman provides many tips and tricks in this video on how we can shoot during harsh sunlight. He talks about using contrast and exposure creatively to highlight specific things. Colour, too, can have an effect on how your subject stands out from its environment.

But he also mentions simplifying your environment, too. Declutter your scene in order to make your subject stand out against its background. It’s all too easy to create an overcomplicated scene when the light isn’t drawing your eye to a particular spot.

Ultimately, harsh light isn’t bad. It’s just a matter of wrangling it under your control and spotting those lucky pockets of light that make a subject shine from its environment.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One response to “How to defy convention and shoot in harsh light”

  1. Duncan Knifton Avatar
    Duncan Knifton

    take a reading off a neutral tone, like pavement or grass… or carry a grey card with you. 🤷‍♂️
    OR,.. just shoot what in front of you and use the shadows as part of the art.