Bright sun lighting tips!

Lighting - Kevin Kubota
The summer sun is out, birds are singing, unicorns are happily playing, and photographers are cursing the lighting! Everyone wants beautiful outdoor portraits, but the bright sun can pose a challenge to your soft, flattering light desires. I've been a wedding photographer for over 20 years and faced challenges from sunny beaches to baking hot concrete parking lots. Here are some of my full sun lighting tips.
  1. Find shade! This might seem obvious, but many photographers neglect to simply ask their client to move locations. Either they are too shy, or think the client absolutely loves their current stake of ground. If you kindly suggest to them that the light is MUCH more flattering to their faces if you move "over there", they generally oblige.
  2. Use the sun as a backlight or hair light. If you have any direction to the sun at all, meaning it's not directly overhead, then you have a potentially beautiful backlight or hair light. Just make sure the sun is not casting dark shadows on the face and then create your facial lighting with a soft, white reflector or a diffused flash. Our LunaGrip works perfect for this.
  3. Create a sun shade. If you have a larger diffusion disk of 40" or so, or better yet, a larger scrim (a translucent white fabric on a frame), then you can shade your client and create an amazing soft light. Ask an assistant, or two, to hold the diffuser overhead – or wherever the sun happens to be. Sometimes you may also want to add a reflector, or diffused flash, to complement the diffused overall light from the scrim.
  4. If you get really desperate and can't move or shade your subject, then fill flash might be your only option. I prefer to use a diffused flash instead of a direct one. This gently fills the shadows and doesn't look so snapshot like. Use a small softbox, LunaGrip, or other flash diffuser directly above your camera lens to avoid creating cross shadows. Take a test shot or two to find the right exposure balance and open up those eye sockets.

About the Image: The LunaGrip is used with a single speedlight to add beautiful lighting to the subject's face, and sparkling catchlights in her eyes. I moved her just out of the bright sun to keep her from squinting and to eliminate the harsh shadows. The LunaGrip keeps the bright, sunny day feel, but creates the perfect portrait lighting. Get a LunaGrip now on sale for under $100!