Midday Photography Lighting Tips for Better Portraits
While golden hour and dawn may be favored for their soft, flattering light, the reality is that photographers often find themselves in situations where midday shooting becomes unavoidable. Whether it’s due to scheduling constraints, unpredictable weather, or simply being in a location where midday is the only option, mastering the art of midday photography is essential for delivering exceptional results in any situation. In this guide, we will delve into the intricacies of midday lighting and share invaluable tips and techniques that will empower you to capture remarkable portraits even under the most demanding and stressful conditions.
Make the lighting as even as possible
Utilize the light and shadows in a way that flatter the model’s face. Most light, even midday light has a little bit of direction.
Begin by placing the model in the path of the sun and assess how it wraps around the subject. Verbal cues such as tilting the chin up toward the sun and other subtleties such as a slight tilt of the head in either direction will aid in directing the model to a workable starting point.
Use a Reflector
Reflectors are an excellent piece of inexpensive equipment to fill in the shadows without the use of a portable light and works very well in backlit situations.
Create your own shade
Shade is always a usable option outdoors and sometimes it isn’t as abundant as it should be. Using a reflector to block the light can create a very even and diffused, if not somewhat flat, lighting source.
*The diffusion panel found in standard 5-in-1 reflectors may be a better source for those who want a little more gradation and subtle contrast.
Shoot in Raw and Underexpose
Highlights are easily blown when working in harsh mid-day sun and underexposing slightly helps retain them. The information captured in the Raw image makes it easy to decrease the shadows and bring out more detail.
Count the model in
This goes hand in hand with the first tip when shooting in direct sun. Counting down from “3, 2, 1” allows the model to keep a natural expression on their face without looking pained. This same method can be useful to shield a model’s eyes when the mood calls for a more powerful expression as the result of looking toward the sun.
Focus On Getting The Right Exposure
When shooting in harsh light, we want to capture the best exposure possible. This will not only make post processing easier but by identifying our clipped highlights, we can retain as much of the image detail as possible. To consistently get our ideal exposure, we’re bringing you tips that will change the way you approach midday shoots! To get ideal exposures, focus on these 5 things.
Set Consistent LCD Brightness
First, we will change our LCD Brightness from Auto to Manual. With Auto Brightness, our displays will make bright scenes appear brighter, and dark scenes will appear darker, which isn’t a true representation of the exposure. Switch to a manual setting so that your LCD is consistent in every image. Although this takes some adjusting, it is one step to easily identify your camera exposure and develop consistent images.
Use The Histogram
Just as with our LCD Brightness, we want to make sure we can identify our ideal exposure. Switch from using your histogram sometimes, to making it a habit and use it always. This feature allows us to easily identify and adjust our exposure to maximize the dynamic range.
Enable Highlight Alert
While our histogram is a great measurement of our exposure levels, it can be hard to identify where our highlights are blown. By enabling the Highlight Alert you can see the blown portions of the image and adjust your exposure settings accordingly.
This excerpt from the workshop shows an approach you can take when faced with harsh sunlight to make sure you get an ideal set-up.
Find The Light Direction
Highlights are always a focal point in portraiture so why not use it to your advantage. Even with overhead sun, there is almost always still some natural light direction that we can use to position our couple with their backs to the light.
By backlighting your subject you will have great separation and create a focal point in the image. See how we set-up our shots from an actual engagement session here!
Watch Hard Light
Utilizing our Histogram makes it easier to make sure that we are retaining as much of the image detail. However, in situations with extreme hard light like the photo below, we may have to use additional accessories.
Use a fill light to preserve highlights, this will help to minimize hard light and also to darken the image. Try using our favorite light reflector or off-camera flash. When harsh lighting is inevitable, here’s a quick tutorial on how we salvaged the image above by setting yourself up for success in Lightroom.
It is the unpredictability of the midday harsh light in an outdoors setting that can be intimidating for many. Embracing the imperfections of these scenarios can create a new dimension of interest that is highly sought after in fashion and beauty photography when it is done well.
Check out our Shoot to Post Workshop, to learn the tricks for every lighting scenario and make your post-processing workflow more efficient! Upgrade today to stream exclusive photography and post production education.