Taking photographs outside is something that we do the first time we buy a camera.

We take it everywhere and want to explore all different locations which is the best thing to do! But let’s say that you finally get hired to shoot a portrait in the park on a sunny afternoon. Awesome idea right? You get excited and take some photos of that person in the park…only to find out that the sunlight is so harsh and unflattering that it has your client run for the hills!

For the beginner, this doesn’t make sense at all! A lot of photographers have been told that natural lighting is the best lighting there is – so how can the sun make a photo look awful? It’s as simple as this sunshine chart below:



Notice the different height the sun is from 6am – 6pm. The higher the sun is, the more harsher the light will be…so imagine if you are in the park with no shade and the client wants to have a photo shoot at 12pm. You are gonna get strong horrible lighting!

And the last thing you want is to have a vision of an image that turns for the worst because it has too much sun. So to prevent from having a photo that will look really harsh and unflattering – here are some tips to think about if you want to start shooting portraits outdoors.

  1. Schedule Your Shoot In At Dawn or Dusk – If we look back to the sun chart, we see that the sun has manageable lighting from the early morning or even in the late afternoon. You can play with the shadows more which is what you want. Better to have more options then none.
  2. Bring Special Equipment – Let’s say for arguments sake that your client can’t make it for an early morning or evening shoot. And you are limited to not only the 12pm sun, but there is no shade around you at all! That is when you need to get fancy and use some photo equipment to help you out.

Here’s an example: for this clothing line that I shot for, they wanted a specific location that I knew would create very bad lighting for my subject. I needed a softer light and decided that instead of settling for harsh sun, I bought a diffuser. Here’s an example of a before and after photo below:

lightingNo diffuser (left) & With diffuser (right)

Notice how it is the same location, same pose but the lighting is completely softer on the right then it is on the left. That is what the diffuser does: it allows you to use the sunlight as your own personal studio light and you can create it as soft as you’d like. For more info on photo equipment – stay tuned!

3. Lerk In The Shadows – When in doubt, try to find a shady spot to offer some type of contrast and shade. Find the nearest tree or park bench that can allow you to have soft and natural light. Sitting by a tree on a sunny afternoon can bring amazing soft light…not to mention a beautiful background.

As always, start small and work your way up. Only you can decided which method works best for you – but it’s up to you to go out and try! Let me know how it goes in the comments below and I would love to see some of your photos!

Till next time,