Five Helpful Tips for Shooting Portraits in Harsh Sunlight

Golden hour is cool and all, but unfortunately, it only lasts about an hour (I guess it was named well). If you're shooting with natural light, limiting yourself to just a small fraction of the day can really hinder your work. This helpful video will show you some tips to embrace that harsh midday sun and keep turning out shots.

Coming to you from Kayleigh June, this video examines how to work with midday sun in portraiture. Often, we don't get the luxury of working during that sweet golden hour, and we have to make do with a different time of day. Of the tips, my personal favorite is having an assistant hold the diffuser panel of a 5-in-1 reflector over the subject. I find that if I use shade on the subject while the background is in the sun, exposing anywhere near correctly for the model usually ends up blowing out the background. On the other hand, the diffuser softens the light beautifully while still allowing most of it through, resulting in a more even overall exposure. From there, I can shape the light with a bit of dodging and burning in post if I so desire. That's exactly what I did with the image below, which was shot around one in the afternoon.

Sabrina 1 by Alex Cooke
Sabrina 1

As you can see, the diffuser also makes a nice catchlight. If you can't get a friend to hold it, I recommend a C-stand and reflector holder

[via ISO 1200]

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6 Comments

Elan Govan's picture

I have taken loads of images of my daughter and we always take with us a number of sunglasses. Gives colour and variety and shade to the eye.

Excellent video; I was doing this even today, and I need to remember more of these tips. You could add--using strobes, even on HSS.

Great video! At 1.33 sec into the video you show the result of using the reflector. The reflector is been held at waist level by the assistant and this is causing underlight on the your subject. If your assistant held the reflector above her head you would get a more natural light on the subject.

Nice video. I'd never thought about 'counting the model in' until after a recent shoot where that would have really come in handy! It was a composite based on something I saw on Fstoppers. But one of the subjects, being an infant, set the "sorta" squinting tone for the final shot anyway. Totally agree with using the diffuser panel. In the video, I think she was just using an opaque panel. And, while I agree a C-stand would be ideal for holding a reflector, I can't imagine dragging one around, outside. :-/ I always bring a voice-activated reflector holder in such cases. :-)

Doug Birling's picture

I was able to use my beauty dish to block the direct sun from the models eyes here and balance the light with the ambient. This kept her from squinting and the shadows in the background seem natural. This extended golden hour by at least another hour.

Alex Cooke's picture

Clever!! Nice shot!