How to Shoot in Harsh Sunlight

While many of us love shooting in the soft light of late afternoon (and early morning!) we may sometimes find ourselves having to shoot in harsh sunlight conditions. If you find yourself in a situation with less than "ideal" light, here are 4 tips to help you make the best of it:

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1. Find Open Shade

If possible, find a spot that is shaded. As you can see in the example below, there was a lot of intensely bright sunlight in the background of this image. But, I had my subject move forward, into the shade of the tree line, and it made all the difference. The shade provides more even lighting on my subject and reduces any squinting because of the bright sun.

Cropped Image:

Shooting in Harsh Sunlight

Pull Back Image:

Shooting in Harsh Light

Here is a very helpful video demonstrating the difference between good and bad shade:

2. Consider the Background

If you simply cannot locate any open shade, try finding a way to pose your subject so that the background is lit in the same way as the subject. For example, make sure that the sunlight in the background of your image is not completely overpowering the foreground and your subject.

In this photo, there is no open shade to be found! However, the light is not distracting, in fact, it's working quite well, because the entire scene is lit exactly the same throughout the image.  You can do this best when the subject and background are lit slightly from the side and not directly overhead.

Harsh Light Photography

3. Warm Up the Image in Post Processing

All too often, shooting in harsh light can result in washed out skin tones and surroundings. Generally, when your image is lit with bright sun, the camera will compensate by choosing a cooler white balance. Adding some warmth in post-processing can help relieve some of those washed out tones, but keep in mind that a little goes a long way, so start off small and work your way up - you don't want your images to get too warm!

Adding warmth to a beach photo shot in bright sun

4. Convert Your Image to Black & White

High noon and harsh sunlight can lend themselves to fantastic lighting for black and white photos. The bright light creates great contrast, and converting to black and white can help minimize the appearance of dappled light, especially if you are shooting near trees.

How to Take Photos in Harsh Light

These are just a few of the ways in which you can make the most of shooting in harsh light.

Do you have any questions or comments about Shooting in Harsh Sunlight?  Leave us a comment below - we would love to hear from you!  And please share our tutorial using the social sharing buttons - we really appreciate it!

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