How I get great results in midday sun

July 19, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Photographers typically avoid scheduling outdoor portraits at a time when the sun is bright and overhead. This is because the sun casts harsh, unflattering shadows on your face. This is shown in the following photo, which I shot without any lights, special gear, or special camera settings.

Harsh midday sunTaken in harsh midday sun

I can greatly improve upon this by using a technique that only the pros know how to use. I didn't invent it, but I know how to apply it with excellent results. Here's how I fix it:

  • Put a diffuser over the subject to soften the sunlight. That eliminates harsh shadows and makes the light soft. However, the light becomes very flat, without direction or depth.
  • Add a light to add depth and dimension (more interest) to the portrait
  • Darken the background so that the subject stands out from the background.

The next two photos show the results. One darkens and blurs the background a bit more, and one lets the background show through a little better (slightly less darkened and less blurred). The light on the subject's face is soft and flattering, and positioned to add a bit of shadow on the right side.

Soft, directional lightingSoft, directional lighting on the subject, darkened and very blurred background.

Soft lighting, less dark backgroundSoft lighting on the subject, slightly less darkened and less blurred background.

Here's the setup that I used to get these results. Notice the diffuser over the subject; the light on a stand with a diffuser ("soft box") attached, just under the diffuser and aimed at the subject; and the camera off to the left. (That's my barbecue grill in the background, and my photo studio at the left.)

Setup to get the improved resultsSetup to get the improved results

Bottom line: I can take in-studio or outdoor portraits any time of the day and get great results. Call 415-309-8660 or e-mail [email protected] to book your session. 


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