How To Photograph In Direct Sun Or Harsh Light.

Many photographers are afraid to shoot in broad daylight, but I’m a strong believer in problem solving and creating no matter what your circumstances.  Of course, sometimes that just isn’t the look you want, but direct sunlight doesn’t have to limit your shooting schedule or prevent you from creating on a whim.

Reflect and backlight.

One great way to use direct sunlight is to use it as a high key backlight or side light with reflection.  This look is quite easy to achieve by simply positioning your subject facing away from the sun, and using a reflector to bounce light back into the model’s face/body.  This can be done to a varying amount, you could easily make your subject extremely bright, or use just a bit of side light for a more dramatic look. 

In the shots below, the first image of the guy was shot at about 3 in the afternoon with the reflector at camera right.  The second image was taken at about 4 or 5pm, with the sand acting as a natural reflector and the sunlight acting as a strong side light.  I chose to have the sunlight casting a shadow across the sand to add drama.

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Find Shade.

The image below was created around 11 in the morning, and we shot until about noon.  At this time of year the sun was coming in at a lower angle to the south (camera right) because it was late fall, so I knew I’d have decent light all day, even in broad daylight.  I found a great shady edge of a forest and arranged the clothing line in the scene to diffuse whatever light might try to spill directly onto my scene.

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Diffuse, Diffuse, Diffuse.

Its very easy to diffuse light at little to no cost.  I’ve used sheets, fabric, tarps, tent covers, reflectors, and professional grade diffusion panels as a way to block out direct light and soften the look of the scene.  In the portraits below, I used a variety of fabrics and props to create natural looking backdrops for my subjects; the light passing through each backdrop provided interesting colors and patterns that proved unique and interesting to the final creations. 

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