One of the hardest times to take good photos, especially of people, is right in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky and casts harsh light. This is also the time of day you are most likely out doing things that you want to photograph. Many photographers shy away from photographing in the middle of the day. You probably don’t have the luxury of that if you are photographing your young kids. In this post you will learn how to take great photos even in harsh, midday sunlight.
7 Actionable Photography Tips for Harsh Sunlight
Look for shade
One of the easiest ways to get soft lighting in harsh sunlight is to find shade. Your subject will immediately look more even. This can be accomplished by using natural elements like trees or looking for structures like umbrellas, playground equipment, or buildings to create shade. You can often just turn yourself or your subject around or take a few steps and you will find shade for your photograph.
Use the shadows
Shadows can create interest and depth in a photograph if you’re brave enough to use them. Look for opportunities to include the shadows in your photograph. This might be composing your image in a way that includes a full body shadow behind you child. Pay attention to how the shadows are falling and as long as they aren’t distracting from the image they might just add to it.
Lowering yourself can give you a new perspective and allow you to position yourself and your subject in a way that is more flattering. Being eye level with your subject rather than above them will decrease the harsh lines and shadows that are caused by the harsh sunlight.
Let your subject block the sun
Backlighting your subject (you can read more about light here) will provide a more even light on your subject and bring the light in from behind. When the sun is high in the sky you can achieve this by lowering yourself or moving yourself until your subject blocks the sun. Use the natural reflectors around you to light the face of your subject of you’re photographing people.
Having hard lines and shadows adds a lot of drama to an image. Play around with your composition to find the right look for your image. These lines will also bring out textures, irregularities, and depth in your photo so have a little fun with it.
Focus on landscape
Taking portraits can be very tricky in harsh lighting so if you aren’t getting the images you want, focus on the landscape. Take photos of the scenery around you or make the focus of the image the landscape and the person as a smaller element. I like to get photos of my kids from behind with the view in front of them when the lighting is harsh. You may need to move yourself around a bit to find the right angle on the landscape.
Take photos you will make black and white
Black and white photos are more forgiving. If the sunlight is just too high, intentionally take photos you would like to turn into black and whites. Sometimes the drama of the lines and shadows makes for stunning black and white photos so you don’t have to worry so much about making the light fall perfectly.
Midday sun is hard, even for the most experienced photographer. The goal is to not shy away from bad lighting situations. But rather play with all kinds of light and find your sweet spot. If you’re trying to really document your life in photos, there’s no way around taking photos in the middle of the day at least some of the time.
What to do now:
Make a point of getting outside in the middle of the day on a very sunny day. Use the tips above and apply them to your photography in harsh light. Tag me on Instagram (@athomewithkidsblog) and show me your favorite photos.
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