Shooting outdoors in the bright midday sun scares the pants off a lot of portrait photographers. And for good reason. The harsh midday light when the sun’s high in the sky isn’t particularly flattering. Unless you go into open shade (and even that’s not always a guarantee), there’s really no way you can position yourself and your subject that the sun is presenting flattering light on your subject.
But it doesn’t need to be so bad and you don’t need to actively avoid it, as Jiggle Alejandrino points out in this video. He loves shooting outdoor portraits in the midday sun (and, so do I!) and explains why he loves it and how he overcomes the challenges of shooting at this time of day using flash.
Using flash is a fantastic way to overcome the challenges of the natural light in a scene. In fact, it’s pretty much its sole reason for existing. The only downside of using flash on location is that it’s more gear to carry. Sure, sometimes you might be able to get away with a speedlight but at other times, you might need a big 600Ws strobe and a 5ft octabox to really get the look you’re going for. I’ve used that strobe and box combo out on location in the middle of nowhere, too. It’s not fun to carry, but the benefits it can provide to your short far outweigh a little short-term discomfort.
Jiggie shows how he augments the natural light with flash by having it come from roughly the same direction as the sun. This makes a lot of sense on a wide shot because you want the light on your subject to match the light in the rest of the scene. You also want the shadows to match up, too. But if you’re going in for a tighter portrait shot, I’m a big fan of using that high sun as a hair light from just slightly behind the subject with a flash and softbox as the key to light what would otherwise be a black hole where a face should be.
There are so many ways you can use flash outdoors to overcome bad sunlight, though. You just need to stop being afraid of it and go out there and experiment!