I know many times as photographers we wish we had control over our lighting conditions in natural light but sadly it’s always unpredictable. We usually have to play a game with mother nature and go along with however she’s feeling on a particular day and complete our craft. Sometimes’s we’re lucky and end up getting ideal photography or lighting situations such as a golden hour or a slightly overcast sky. Then there are days when the lighting conditions are challenging like shooting in harsh light and you become demotivated. Thankfully In today’s article, I will be running through a few quick tips as to how you can achieve some pretty good images while shooting in harsh light. This is a very common challenge for photographers, especially beginners so let’s dive in.
One of the first tips I recommend is trying to bounce the light on your subject. With harsh light often comes harsh shadows which can sometimes be used as a creative tool but in most cases, it’s annoying to have harsh shadows in your shot. By using a reflector to bounce the light onto your subject and fill out these areas with intense shadows will make the light on your subject more evenly distributed. If you don’t have a reflector you can consider using a natural reflector such as concrete. Many photographers don’t know that concrete acts as a natural reflector and will bounce light back onto your subject. If possible, find a concrete area and give it a try to see if it helps to fill out those harsh shadows on your subject.
Another way to successfully practice photography or complete a session in harsh light is to use a diffuser. A diffuser will work to soften the direct sunlight that is beaming down on your subjects face. If possible, have someone hold a diffuser in front of the direction from which the rays of sunlight are coming and this should work to even out the light on your subject. The diffuser will create a softer source of light while distributing this light evenly as well. This is a popular method I have used on almost all my shoots when I do end up in harsh light situations.
Moving your model or subject around a little bit can sometimes help to find that sweet spot. As photographers, we get so excited and comfortable when we finally find that one spot where the lighting is perfectly even and soft. To find this you should explore different spots and positions with your model just to get a variety of different lighting situations as well as finding an ideal spot that works well for you as the photographer. A mistake many of us make is not moving around enough so we end up having shots with the same harsh lighting conditions.
As I mentioned earlier, there is harsh light you can also find shadows. These shadows can sometimes work as a creative tool in the composition of your shots if used correctly. Take the time out to try a few frames with some shadows in them and see how they turn out as you may never know. You might just end up liking a few of them.
Shade often helps to create ideal lighting situations that can work to your advantage in harsh light situations. Sometimes the easiest way to enjoy a photography session in harsh sunlight is to simply get out of it. Explore the space around you and find nice well lit but shaded area to capture a few shots. Keep in mind that shade is necessarily the absence of sunlight but rather light being naturally diffused from bouncing through a medium to then get to your subject. Isn’t amazing how light works?
Shooting in harsh light is not only a challenge on the photographer but also on the model as well. In most cases, you will find where light is shining directly into the eyes of your subject which can be very uncomfortable and in some cases painful. To avoid capturing this expression in your shots and also considering the best interest of the model, it is recommended that you do a count down. A countdown basically helps to prevent any discomfort and gives your model or talent a heads up as to when exactly you will be taking your image so they can be prepared.
With the advancement of technology in this day and age, most cameras tend to recover shadows pretty well. It is relatively easy to blow your highlights out of proportion during a midday shoot in harsh light but shooting a little underexposed in RAW format will save you a lot of work and hassle.