Taking Photos In Harsh Light

Family photo with strong shadows

Summer comes with some of the most amazing light. Summer light can also some of the hardest light to take photos in. Photographers often try to avoid taking photos in harsh light, due to the strong shadows, blown highlights and lens flare that can occur.

But sunny days in UK aren’t that common, lots of us like spending time outside enjoying their warmth. Maybe you’re planning a day out at the beach, in a local park or just enjoying some time in the garden. These tips will help you take better photos for your family on those sunny days.

Strong shadows on beach



Taking Photos In Harsh Light

1: Shoot at an Angle

Take a few moments before you start taking photos to have a look at how the light is hitting your subjects. If you can, position your subjects so the sun isn’t directly hitting their faces. You don’t want your subjects squinting when they look at you. Move around your subject to work out which angle to posit yourself at, being careful to make sure that your own subject doesn’t fall on the subject.

2: Change your shooting mode

As clever as many modern cameras are these days, they will be a lot of light bouncing around your subject and your light meter won’t give you an accurate reading. By default, your camera is likely to want to underexpose your images when taking photos on bright sunny days.

One way you can properly expose an image in a harsh sunlight situation is by putting your camera in manual mode. Rather than letting the camera decide, in manual mode you tell it what exposure settings to use.

3: Widen Your Aperture

One reason harsh sunlight isn’t always desirable for taking photos is because it generally isn’t very flattering. Harsh sunlight creates hard shadows, and these highlight little details on the skin, such as blemishes and wrinkles.

Shooting at a wider aperture helps to soften skin tones, and create a more pleasing look for portraits. Depending on what your lens allows, you might want to go as wide as f1.2. It’s important to note that when shooting with a wide apertures that it can be difficult to maintain a sharp focus on your subjects. Remember to slow down and take your time to focus properly when taking images using these settings.

4: Use the shadows

If you can’t avoid taking photos in harsh light you can try working with the light. Harsh sunlight creates strong shadows. These shadows can be used to create images with contrasting elements of light and dark. The contrast created by the shadows can add to the mood of an image, or be used to direct attention to highlights in an image. Shadows can add drama, definition or mystery to an image.

5: Go Inside

And if you’re not feeling the the harsh sun outdoors? Try heading inside and take some photos there. Harsh sunlight outside can mean there is a lot of sun coming though your windows, so make the most of it.

Family in shadowy forest

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