how to shoot in harsh light

How many of you can relate to the following scenario: It is a beautiful overcast day (yes, to photographers overcast weather is perfect to shoot in!), and you are about to photograph some stunning portraits of the couple together. All of a sudden, the sun breaks through, casting a harsh light onto your couple. At first, this may seem like a problem, but don’t let the harsh rays of the sun hinder you from taking gorgeous photos. In the past, we shared how to shoot with off-camera lighting, as well as how to shoot in natural lighting. Now, we are excited to share some ways that will help you shoot in harsh lighting conditions.

Download our Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers to discover 26 key tips from Roberto Valenzuela!

It is impossible for you to control the weather, and it is especially difficult for you to always shoot in soft and perfect lighting. Although we can help you with your wedding photography post-processing needs if the lighting is not ideal in your images, we want to give you the tools to shoot in any light. Here are a few simple tips to help you work with harsh lighting that will still make your clients look their best!


Image Compliments of Ning Wong

Seek Open Shade

When shooting outdoors in harsh light, it can be helpful to get out of the sun for a while. Shooting in the open shade is a great way to capture beautiful images. The open shade will allow for the subjects to be under one even source of light without any harsh, bright spots hitting them. The best places for this can be under the shade of trees, buildings, or any props that you bring to cover your subjects. When you place your subjects toward the light, you will create a natural glow on their faces.

Related: Struggling with difficult lighting on the wedding day? Download our Off-Camera Flash Guide and learn simple strategies to overcoming challenging light!

Shoot in the open shade sporadically throughout the day, making sure that you do not miss any opportunities to shoot in natural light. For instance, if the natural light is too harsh at first, take a moment to capture images in the open shade. As the day goes on, be sure to look for ideal light (such as the golden hour) to shoot in.

Take Advantage of Backlight

Sometimes, the sun creates unnecessary lines and highlights on the faces that are unflattering to your subjects. During your shoot, there may be times when shade is unavailable for you to work with. When executed correctly, the backlight can transform an ordinary image into a stunning image. As you shoot with couples, place them with their backs to the sunlight, and pose the couple toward one another, which will allow them to face away from the sun and have natural expressions. This will allow them to block most of the direct light, which will ensure that their faces are evenly shaded.

Tip: For you to eliminate the haze created by the harsh light, filter the light through something in the setting – trees or tall grass will work.


Image Compliments of Ning Wong

Bounce the Light

As you shoot outdoor portraits, it is likely that you will encounter harsh light more often than not. Take advantage of opportunities from light bouncing off of objects – a window or building – and place your subjects in a position that allows them to be in the soft light.

You can also use a reflector to soften the conditions in harsh light and bounce light to your desired location. This can be a great way to light your subjects’ faces to remove any shadows or uneven lighting that may be on them. Another trick to direct the light is to use an off-camera flash. This will allow you to control exactly how much light is on your subject and remove any unwanted shadows.

Knowing how to use harsh lighting to your advantage is not easy. Take the time to learn how to master this so you can be confident shooting in any type of lighting situation! Discover 26 key tips from Roberto Valenzuela’s Picture Perfect Lighting to use in your upcoming shoots with our Lighting Guide for Wedding Photographers! Download it today.

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