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Creating Flattering Portraits in midday Sunlight ☀️

10/19/2020 ISO 1200 Magazine 0 Comments

When you first start shooting portraits you probably started outside right? I mean, maybe some us didn't start off with lighting kits or even know how to use them if we did. But the one thing that we did do was avoid direct sunlight like vampires lol. I know I did. We're not supposed to shoot in direct sunlight, that's the rule, right? 


There are many situations where you CAN use direct sunlight to your advantage either on purpose to create beautiful hard light photos utilizing those harsh shadows, or if you basically have no choice.

So the sun at noon brings out harsh shadows, emphasizes textures, creates unflattering highlights and makes the eyes look sunken, so what do we do?? 

Well the 2 challenges we have to solve are the quality of light and the direction of light. 

Here are 3 tips you can take with you the next time you have to shoot in midday sun. 

Tip #1: Diffuse the sunlight -- this one is pretty straight forward. Use something like a 3 in 1 reflector/diffuser or try using a shoot-through umbrella. Note: You may need something larger than your typical one! When the sun hits the diffusion material it spreads out and becomes a larger softer light source and loses it specularity (aka shine) and instantly becomes more flattering to the skin.
Bonus tip: Be sure to lift the subject's head so that more of the light gets into their eyes, additionally you can add a reflector for fill light. 

Tip #2: Bounce Reflectors - Look for a large preferably white surface (to avoid color cast) that you can use to bounce the light. This can be a sidewalk, a white wall, even the side of a van! (The metal surface will be highly reflective). When the sun hits the surface it bounces off and becomes a large soft light source, beautiful light. Be sure to have the subject's back to the sun, or place them in the shadow just opposite that bounce reflector. 

If you can't find a natural bounce reflector (for instance if you're shooting in a field, all grass, in a park etc) than my go-to is using a v-flat (my favorites are from V-Flat World because they fold down nicely and are ultra portable then). 

Tip #3: Embrace the Sunlight - So far I've shown you two examples on how to soften midday light, but what about just embracing it? Sunlight is hard, but it can also create beautiful high contrast images. Hard light images love black and white because of the contrast, so now is your opportunity to shoot keeping that end result in mind as well!

Bonus tip: Depending on your subject you may want to use blotting papers or matte makeup to help reduce oily skin to control unwanted textures.
P.S. 🔥 Looking for creative ideas for shooting in direct sunlight? I recommend my Creative Natural Light Recipe Guide -- Over 20 ready-to-shoot examples that will help inspire and give you creative results! 👉

About Lindsay Adler:

Fashion photographer Lindsay Adler has risen to the top of her industry as both a photographer and educator. Based in New York City, her fashion editorials have appeared in numerous fashion and photography publications. As a photographic educator, she is one of the most sought after speakers internationally, teaching on the industry's largest platforms and most prestigious events, having been named one of the top 10 best fashion photographers in the world.
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Text, images and video via Lindsay Adler Photography

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