As photographers, light is something we are constantly concerned about. We need some sort of light source coming in, but from where and how much is always the question. A soft sun glow during the early hours of the morning or right before sunset is ideal, but often times wedding ceremonies or a client’s schedule does not allow for those prime shooting times. Light can take a normally plain image and transform it into a powerful and exciting picture, but what happens when you are dealing with harsh midday, overhead lighting? Luckily, there are a couple ways of dealing with this problem while still achieving beautiful pictures that both you and your clients will be happy with.
1) Shade – Even Lighting
The best way to avoid distracting facial shadows from midday lighting is to bring your subjects into a shaded area. That shade can be provided by a large tree, a building or really anything that is casting a big enough shadow to fit your subject. What we want to do is create even lighting where no direct sun is hitting the face or body, allowing the subject to be evenly lit. Make sure you are not using patchy shade where spots of light are coming through. This will cause uneven lighting and your subject will have spots of light hitting their face and body.
2) Backs to the Sun – Back Lit
If no shade is available, position your subjects with their backs to the sun. Doing this will block most of the direct light and cause their faces to be evenly shaded. This is called back lighting. This is sometimes easier to do with one subject because you can position them perfectly to make sure no sunspots are making their way onto the face. With two or more individuals it can be more of a challenge. Keeping their faces closer together can help eliminate some of the light spots coming through or you can use the taller subject to block the sun off of the shorter person. Make sure to expose for the subjects’ faces or they will be too dark to see any detail. Something to note is that the background will be overexposed when metering for the face in a situation like this.
3) Go Inside – Window Lighting
Another great way to deal with harsh light is to take your shoot indoors. While many photographers would prefer to shoot outdoors, using window light in an interesting indoor location can be a great alternative and still allow for soft and natural light to be used. This can also be a fun challenge for those who may be looking for a way to get their creative juices flowing again. Simply face the subjects towards the window and the flood of light coming in will be just enough to perfectly light up your subject.
There is a big difference in harsh, unwanted light that causes shadows and using a light source to purposely create shadows on the face or body. Although indoor locations may be used to escape the harsh light, windows can be used in a creative way to make images appear more dramatic with shadowing. Experimenting with where the subject stands and how they are angled next to a window can be fun and create depth in an image.
For more examples of how to deal with harsh lighting please visit my website, Jenna Bechtholt Photography.