Find a place in the sun
Know how to work the angles and you can turn a difficult lighting situation to your advantage, as James Paterson demonstrates
Use bright sunlight to your advantage when shooting portraits outdoors
On a very sunny day the difference in brightness between objects in sunlight and those in shade increases, which results in more contrast. For faces, the hard direct light from the sun can be unkind. But this doesn’t necessarily mean we can’t go out and shoot portraits on a sunny day – we just need to know how to work the angles.
The traditional advice for photographers is to shoot with the sun behind them, as this results in frontal lighting on the subject. But for portraits, if the frontal light is direct sunlight then there will be harsh shadows, and the subject will probably squint too. One way to fix this is to reverse the positions, so that you and your camera are facing the direction of the sun, and the subject has the sun behind them.
This potentially gives us three improvements in one. First, it throws
It throws the subject’s face into shade, making the light softer and more flattering, reducing the risk of harsh shadows emphasising wrinkles or less-than-perfect skin texture
the subject’s face into shade, making the light softer and more flattering, reducing the risk of harsh shadows emphasising wrinkles or less-thanperfect skin texture. Second, it creates edge lighting, giving our subject a halo that emphasises the shape of the head and body. And third, it creates a nice separation between the person and the background.
One final note on safety: never look through your Nikon’s viewfinder directly at the sun. If you’re putting your model between yourself and the sun, use Live View for composing and checking focus. That way you won’t risk damaging your eyes.