Do you struggle with shooting in harsh lighting? Bright highlights and harsh shadows caused by direct sunlight can be a photographer’s worst nightmare on a shoot day, but there are a couple tips and tricks you can use to maintain soft lighting on the sunniest of days!
Tip #1: Find shade
Probably an obvious tip, but if you’re faced with harsh lighting but want to a maintain a soft look to your photos, find shady spots to shoot in. Look for large, solid objects that will block out sunlight, like buildings, walls, cars, awnings, and umbrellas. Don’t rely on trees and plants to completely block out light for an even shadow as sun escaping through leaves and branches will often create dappled effects (unless you want that effect – see tip #5!)
Tip #2: Underexpose
If you are unable to shoot in the shade but want to maintain soft lighting, underexpose your images! Adjust either the shutter, aperture, or ISO to expose for the brightest part of the image, and then plan to bring up the exposure and shadows in the foreground while editing. Shooting in RAW and having sharp focus on your subject will help you save the image in post-processing as well.
All of these shots were underexposed and edited with my Café Crème preset in Lightroom to really bring up shadows and minimize highlights!
Tip #3: Utilize sunglasses and hats
One of the biggest challenges when shooting in harsh lighting is having your subject squinting! Solve that problem with a pair of glamorous sunglasses, or a trendy sunhat to create even shade on your subject’s face.
Tip #4: Shoot against the sun
Shooting against the sun will create the most even and shaded lighting on your subject, where it’s a person or an object. Identify where the sun is coming from and position your subject facing away from the light. Shooting against the sun is also another great situation where you’ll want to underexpose to maintain the background and bring up the exposure and shadows in the foreground while editing.
Tip #5: Embrace the shadows
If you’re still having issues with shooting in harsh lighting, go ahead and embrace it! Play with the effects and shapes shadows can create, or go for a dramatic Chiaroscuro look.
Hope these tips and tricks help you for your next shoot with harsh lighting!
Model: Heidi Grey
Lightroom Preset: Café Crème
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