5 Tips on How to Take Beautiful Pictures in Harsh Lighting

 
 
5 Tips on How to Take Beautiful Photos in Harsh Light | Tips for Photographers | Harsh Light_Primary.jpg
 

Harsh light is something I used to be afraid of as a photographer.  "OH crap, there is NO SHADE? WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?"  Then I surprised myself time and time again with just how much I love harsh light.  I'd honestly be lying if I didn't admit that it used to terrify me but I quickly got over that once I figured out HOW to capture beautiful imagery in harsh lighting conditions.  I decided it was time to finally put together a post on WHY I like it and HOW I embrace it when I'm given no other option because the reality is as a wedding photographer you just have to roll with it sometimes and figure out how to make it work for you and your style!

Here are my tips for achieving beautiful images in harsh lighting conditions!

Tip #1 for harsh light photography:

Backlight your subject, always.  When you have harsh light going on, you don't want your subject facing the sun.  You will get squinty eyes and unflattering light.  Whenever I'm backlighting I just try to make sure that the face is shaded and does not have any sun hitting it.  If you have a couple in front of your camera, use the taller subject to help block the light!

Tip #2 for harsh light photography:

Always shoot manually!  Manual mode is what I pushed myself to learn the moment I picked up a camera.  

Tip #3  Angle the light

I know I mentioned backlighting, but another option (which is usually my go to) is angling the light at about 45 degrees.  As you can see below, the sun is bright on her left shoulder.  I love the light I get when it hits my subjects like this.  

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Tip #4 find a pocket of shade

I have been able to achieve what I need with the littlest pocket of shade!  It's usually a tree.

 In this image you can see that I'm implementing two of my tips...  The first is using a little pocket of shade from a tree in this backyard as well as Tip #5 - using natural reflectors.  The neutral stairs were the perfect natural reflector on her skin!

In this image you can see that I'm implementing two of my tips...  The first is using a little pocket of shade from a tree in this backyard as well as Tip #5 - using natural reflectors.  The neutral stairs were the perfect natural reflector on her skin!

TIP #5 Use natural reflectors

A natural reflector can be any neutral colored object in your setting that can serve to bounce light back onto your subject. Common reflectors might be a sidewalk or pavement, sand or a large neutral colored building or structure.  If I'm faced with harsh light I always try to incorporate some sort of natural reflector.  When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, I struggled with greens.  I quickly realized that I was putting my subjects in A.  Not the best light and B. A floor of greenery will only create green hues on the skin.  So I stopped doing that right away.  Now I utilize dirt paths, roads on the ranch or anything neutral to bounce that light.


click on the image below to grab a copy of my manual mode guide and cheat sheet!

 

I hope you found this post helpful as you continue to learn photography!  I truly believe as photographers we have to be comfortable in all lighting situations and I also believe that there are "tricks" to make even the difficult situations STUNNING!  Sometimes the light just isn't right and you have to adjust and improvise... that's a post for another day on how I find the light with EVERY situation I'm up against!