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Get out of the sun

Created date

July 20th, 2015
Photo under a tree with flash
Photo under a tree with flash

If you plan on taking portraits in sunlight, don’t do it. The best place to take portraits outdoors on a sunny day is out of the sun

Direct sunlight is too bright and causes people to squint. The harsh contrast makes for very unflattering photos. It creates dark shadows under the eyes, nose and neck due to contours of the face. 

The way to solve the problem is to get out of the sun. Look for open shade. Try to find a location where the strong sunlight is blocked. It can be under a tree, under a porch, a recessed doorway, under a bridge or in the shade of a building—even under an umbrella. Open shade softens the light and eliminates dark shadows. The direction that your camera points should also be toward a shaded background. 

When to use flash

However, there may be times when you’ve found the ideal shade for your subject but can’t avoid a sunlit background. This is when to use the camera’s flash. Your subject will be illuminated sufficiently to match the bright background, and the exposure will be perfect. 

While trees provide an excellent canopy to shade your subject, sunlight often penetrates through the leaves, forming blotchy patterns on the face. Using your flash in this situation will soften the mottled effect, if not eliminate it all together.

Don’t forgo shooting portraits indoors with natural light pouring through windows. Select a window not directly facing the sun. Sheer curtains will further soften the indirect light. Be careful to position your subject and camera at right angles to the window. Another option is to have your back to the window with the person facing you. Just make sure your shadow doesn’t appear on the subject.  

For attractive outdoor portraits, get out of the sun. Experiment a bit. Be creative.

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