This sweet little family joined us up in Malad, Idaho during our Creatives’ Retreat. They got up early and drove into the hills, and allowed our entire group to direct, pose, and photograph them. They were such patient and willing subjects. Aly got ready in the tiny bathroom of our cottage, and came out looking as beautiful and free as the wildflowers surrounding us. We topped her and her daughter’s hair with faux flower crowns from the amazing XXX and then we took off and frolicked through the grass.
Because this was a summer morning shoot, the sun was already quite high in the sky, with bright, harsh light bouncing off the vividly green grass. Yet, despite the full-sun, we were still able to capture an awesome, well-rounded family session. Here are three tips we used to make sure our photos were just as beautiful as they would be at any other time of day!
1. The most obvious way to shoot in bright sun: avoid it & shoot in the shadows. Lucky for us, there was a line of trees that we were able to use for a nice, evenly shaded area. One thing about shooting in shade that you have to be aware of: Just as not all light is created equal, neither is shade. It has to be even and flat – dappled shade is, in my opinion, even worse than bright sun! Nobody wants dark spots on their arms or face. So if you’re going to shoot in shade, make sure it is even shade and not spotty shade with sun peeking through pockets.
2. Shoot with the sun behind them. I know that sounds counter-intuitive (most people will think you’re crazy for shooting into the sun!) If the sun is low on the horizon, like it is during sunrise or sunset, then sometimes it can be difficult to shoot with the sun directly behind your subject, because you risk too much sun coming into your lens and making your image hazy. However, when the sun is almost directly overhead, it is much easier to avoid getting full sun into your lens, as you typically aren’t shooting with your camera pointed that high, but towards the horizon where your subjects are. This will create a nice rim of light around your subjects’ heads. You can also put the sun at just the slightest angle to them, just framing the side of them. Just remember that since the sun is behind them, their faces will be in shadow, so you may need to overexpose just a bit.
3. Embrace the sun. Sometimes you need to take a shot where neither of the above situations can happen. Either there is no open shade, or maybe your couple/family wants a particular location in the background behind them, but the lighting is less than ideal. Sometimes I can use one of them as a “shade” to the other. But if that’s not happening either, in these situations, I typically just have my subjects looking at each other, rather than at the camera. If they are looking at the camera, and the sun is shining right onto them, then they are squinting and there are harsh shadows under their eyes. But if they are looking at each other, then the first thing you notice is the connection they are making, and the sun falls more evenly across a cheek than it does across an eye socket.
Lastly, a tip on editing photos taken in full sun: Harsh, direct lighting naturally creates images with starker contrast so don’t be afraid to pull your shadows way up! In some of these images my shadows and my blacks are all the way to 100%. Pulling my shadows up rather than my exposure allows for more natural highlights – which means you don’t blow out the sky or fair skin. I also brought the luminance and saturation of the greens and yellows wayyyy down to avoid a too-green cast on their skin from the grass reflecting back up on them!