How to Take Better Portraits in Bright Sunlight

Bright, harsh sunlight sitting far overhead is the bane of many portrait photographers' existences, but it is not impossible to create compelling portraits with flattering light in such conditions. This helpful video tutorial will show you how to take bright sunlight and harness it for worthwhile images. 

Coming to you from Keydrin Franklin with B&H Photo and Video, this great video tutorial will show you how to take better portraits in bright sunlight. The problem with midday sun is that it generally creates very hard light with unflattering shadows and overemphasis on skin texture. You can sometimes use this to creative effect, but for most client portraits, you will want to use soft light of some sort. While the classic 5-in-1 reflector is typically used as, well, a reflector, most of them have a diffusion panel built in, and they are fantastic for such situations. Adding a bit of artificial light is also a useful option, depending on the conditions and your preferences. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Franklin. 

If you would like to continue learning about how to light a portrait, be sure to check out "Illuminating The Face: Lighting for Headshots and Portraits With Peter Hurley!"

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6 Comments
Mike Ditz's picture

Pretty good advice but that setup is about $800-1000?

Alexander Petrenko's picture

+1-2 assistants to hold everything in place.

PS: I wouldn’t trust a photographer setting up their softbox across the road from their subject…

Daniel Medley's picture

I don't think he actually used the flash from that position. He just had it there out of the way while he demonstrated natural light with and without a scrim. Then moved the light in to an appropriate position when using it.

Alexander Petrenko's picture

You are right. When (and if) you watch the video - he moves it closer.

Paul Trantow's picture

Yes, but there's probably a budget option. Once you cut the sun by two-ish stops, you can light with a very reasonable smallish flash, and HSS will be your friend. I think 200 WS would probably cut it. Also, shot bags. Bring several. Photo equipment outdoors WILL get blown over.

user 65983's picture

Are you including the light and octabox in that quote or just the scrim? There are cheaper scrim options out there FYI.