Five tips to capture beautiful images in harsh light.
The Golden Hour. That magical hour before the sun sets when the earth is flooded with a buttery light that seems emanate from the center of everything beautiful. The light that makes hair rim with a halo of golden glory and the face of every single person on earth look like the model of angelic grace. It is the stuff of legends and it is the dream time for every photographer that ever shot a human subject. (If you book a session with me, be sure that I will book you during this hour) The photos that make us stop in our never-ending scroll through wilds of Instagram are usually shot during this hour. It is perfect!
However, lets be honest for a moment shall we? Real life doesn't happen at 7:45 in the evening. It happens at noon. When the sun is high, and light is like a glaring spot light that blinds eyes and distorts faces into squinting piles of wrinkles. Nice, right? But its true. We picnic in the sunshine at lunch time. We play in the sparkling pool when the temperatures reach a melting point in the middle of the afternoon. We live through the whole day, not just for one hour before the sunsets. So how can we capture images that speak to the beauty and the life we live during the harsh light of a day? Here are my top five tips to making that happen.
1. Accept that your images will look different: You are not going to get buttery golden light in the middle of the afternoon. Its never going to happen....ever. You will however, get the most amazing crystal clear blue skies! You will get the colors that are bright and true, and you will find more dramatic shadows as well. So pay attention to those things as you shoot. Remember to look for the different perks of shooting midday and before you know it you will be in love!
2. Embrace the shadows: The light in the middle of the day is harsh. It is right overhead like a big spotlight and it creates the world worst shadow under the eyes of whoever you are shooting. This shadow (often called raccoon eyes) makes your subject look like they are a zombie. You can sometimes shoot from above with your subject looking up to help eliminate that. The light at this time also creates amazing patterns, dramatic highlights, and interesting depth that you dont get during the perfect golden hour. So instead of looking for golden light straight out of heaven, look for the shadows. See how the sun is playing with your subject and where the light is looking unique. The shadows may just make your image stand out with its mystery and depth!
3. Shoot details: When you are shooting in the middle of the day, chances are that there is a story to tell. One of my favorite ways to help add to that is to shoot details shots. The chubby baby hands holding their first seashell. The little feet flying high in the air on a swing. The first flower of spring in a little ponytail. All these little things tell the story of your day and your moment in time, so shoot those!
4. Put the sun in back: If there is one tip that I ALWAYS tell people about shooting in lots of sun its this one! Shoot with the sun behind your subject! Yes, sometimes there is flare or haze, but no one is squinting, miserable, or blind! If you can manage to have a reflective surface in front of your subject while the sun is behind them, the results will be good. The white or reflective surface in front will bounce the light to their faces without blinding them. What are good reflective surfaces? Concrete, sand, stone, or any lighter colored surface will work this way. This will allow you to get portrait quality in the worst light hours.
5. When it doubt- black and white it out: Sometimes a photo is just not working. The lighting might be bad, the color of the shirt might be obnoxious, or maybe there is something in the background that you just cant get out. So what do you do? Black and white it! Seriously, the classic black and white can take an images that was not great and turn it into something you want to keep forever! I cant tell you how many images from the middle of the day fall flat in color, but in black and white they shine! So if you are in doubt.....try it!
Finally remember, photos are meant to tell your unique, beautiful story. So don't shy away from capturing your life because the sun isn't in the perfect, golden place. Life is rarely perfect and yet there is beauty in it all.....even if it is in the middle of the day! Did any of these tips help you? Or do you have a tip to share? Let me know! I would love to hear about it!