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As a wedding photographer, you may encounter various lighting scenarios, from capturing the soft glow during early morning or sunset to shooting portraits in midday sun. However, even when the sun beats down on your subjects, you can still capture stunning photos that will leave your clients speechless. Shooting a wedding in harsh light can be an opportunity to create epic portraits that show off your skills. Initially, you might capture photos with excessive contrast and dark shadows covering your client's face, but with practice, you can learn how to shoot in harsh light. In this blog post, we'll share valuable tips on harsh light photography and utilizing the sun to your advantage. So, be it shooting outdoors under the sweltering sun or indoors with harsh light breaking through, our tips can help you navigate your way through.

What Is Harsh Light?

a couple posing under harsh light beside a lake surrounded by mountainsImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @apollofields

It’s basically direct sunlight that creates hard shadows and may result in overexposed highlights. Harsh light hours are typically between 10 am and 2 pm. When shooting outdoor ceremonies in hard light, it’s important to consider the sun’s position in relation to your subject. You need to also learn how to shoot in harsh light and position yourself and your subjects to get the best out of your shot.

Read more: Hard Light vs Soft Light: Understanding Wedding Lighting

Tips On How To Shoot In Harsh Light 

1. Seek Open Shade

a couple posing inside dense foliage away from the harsh sunlightImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @looyengaphoto

Having your subjects under an open shade in harsh light is a great way to capture beautiful images when shooting outdoors. It will allow them to be under uniform lighting without any harsh, bright spots hitting them. Also, plan ahead and look out for ideal light, such as the golden hour. 

2. Shoot In Manual Mode

When shooting outdoor ceremonies, it's important to have full control over your camera settings in bright sunlight. We recommend shooting in manual mode to adjust your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO to achieve the desired exposure. A good practice is keeping your aperture around f/8, shutter speed at 1/125th of a second, and ISO at 100. Working around these camera settings can help you prevent overexposed highlights in your photos. 

Suggested Read: Photography Basics: Shutter Speed Explained

3. Diffuse & Bounce The Light

infographic stating diffused light can help create softer more flattering portraits

Using a diffuser can help to soften the harsh light and minimize the contrast between the highlights and shadows. If you don't have one, create a DIY version with a piece of white fabric. Another effective solution for harsh lighting photography is reflectors, which can fill the shadows and provide uniform exposure. Here are a few tips on how to use a reflector in bright sunlight:

  • Place the reflector opposite of the harsh light source.

  • Angle the reflector so that it reflects light into the shadows.

  • Experiment with different reflector sizes and shapes.

Related Read: How To Diffuse Light: 4 Tips For Wedding Photographers

4. Use Creative Filters

Creative filters can be a great way to add interest to your photos. A polarizer is considered one of the best filter for harsh sunlight photography, as it optimizes the results in strong sunlight. It can help increase your images' color saturation and contrast, making the colors pop. However, neutral density filters can be great alternatives as they minimize the amount of light coming into the camera. This will enable you to experiment with a longer shutter speed, resulting in interesting effects.

5. Backlight And Front Light

a couple standing in a dimly lit area with a light shining brightly behind themImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @erinm_photography

Here’s a handy trick on how to shoot in harsh light: try backlighting or front lighting your subjects. And both can be used to your advantage when shooting in harsh sunlight. With Backlighting, you position the sun behind your subject to create a halo or rim of light around their head, a beautiful effect if done correctly. Front lighting, on the other hand, is when the sun is in front of your subject. This can create some interesting shadows on your subject's face.

Bonus Tip: Get Creative With Shadows

a couple posing in front of a wall with diagonal shadowsImage Credit: ShootDotEdit Customer @kellyiswilde

Believe it or not, photography in harsh sunlight can be fun! Shadow photography can be a great way to add interest and depth to your photos. When you’re shooting a wedding in harsh light, try getting creative with the shadows. Use them to create interesting geometric shapes or play with the contrast between the highlights and shadows.

Further Read: How To Shoot Indoor Weddings Without Flash

Now that you know how to shoot in harsh light, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice! Mother nature can be quite unpredictable, but don't let the harsh light ruin your perfectly planned shots. With a little bit of skill and creativity, you can turn any challenging lighting situation into a stunning masterpiece. Dive into manual mode, experiment with unique filters, and play with lighting techniques to capture moments that your clients will treasure for a lifetime. Say goodbye to harsh light blues and hello to beautiful, sun-kissed wedding photos!

At ShootDotEdit, we are passionate about helping you grow your wedding photography business. A part of how we do that is by lessening your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help your wedding photography business, check out our pricing plans.

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