Sunday, September 6, 2015

Tricky Lighting Situations

Sunflower fields are a wonderful place to photograph portraits in the late summer!
But this recent shoot in a sunflower field bombarded me
with all the difficult lighting situations that you may
encounter while shooting in bright sunshine.
So as I photographed this client session, I took some
extra photos to show you how to handle tricky lighting in the direct sun.
My client wanted me to photograph her three daughters in a sunflower field.
I drove around and finally found this beautiful sea of yellow!
I don't trespass on private property, so
 I stopped at the house next to the field to ask permission to shoot there.
85-year-old Helen was a total delight!
She not only said YES to the shoot, she even
 posed for me by her sunflowers.
I brought her a 5 X 7 print of this photo the day of the shoot
as a thank you.
On the morning of the shoot, I stopped by our Farmer's Market
to buy some cut sunflowers for the girls to hold.
I didn't want to pick Helen's sunflowers!
I knew before we arrived at the shoot that we would face big
sun issues.  I was hoping for a cloudy day which would have made
it much easier...but instead got BLAZING SUNLIGHT.
Sunflowers always face the sun...that, along with people
facing the sun creates terrible shadows.
Of course, I wanted to photograph with the sunflowers behind them,
but look at the harsh sun and shadows on her face and she's squinting.
So, I had the girls' mother hold up the black side of my reflector to block the direct
sun.  See her arm in the upper left corner holding up the reflector.
I was able to avoid awful shadows on the faces, but
blew out the sky.
That's okay, I usually prefer to add my own sky.
Watch my video tutorial to learn how to add a different sky:
Next, I tried shooting down which worked when
the mom used the reflector to block the sun again.
I tried shooting with the sun coming from the left,
and once again blocking it on the face with the black side of the reflector.
Side sun on a face creates horrible shadows.
I really love how this photo turned out and would not have
been possible without blocking the sun on her face.
Here's another side sun shot saved by
the reflector.
My favorite way to shoot is backlighting because
it ignites the hair from behind and eliminates face shadows.
I turned Melanie to backlight, but there were no sunflowers
in the shot.  So, I had her sisters hold up their
sunflowers in the background!
You can see sister Natalie in the upper right corner...ha ha!
I can actually see a bit of Natalie's hair behind some of those flowers.
but great way to improvise in a challenging light situation.
In the summer, we photographers face these difficult lighting
 issues all the time on a sunny day.
That doesn't mean you can't shoot!
I hope these tips and tricks help you to figure out difficult
sun situations and create dazzling summer portraits.


  1. I LOVED your tutorial on using the patch tool to remove glares of light from photos. I never knew about that tool and you explained its use clearly and quickly. Fabulous tutorial!

    I am going to email my niece many of whose wedding photos were ruined by a photographer who shot their group photos using mottled light. Everyone had strange glows on their faces that made the pictures quite poor. I'll see if I can use your technique to fix up a few of their treasured photos so they have some that are much more pretty.

    Thanks SO much for sharing your method!

  2. Great photos - thanks for showing us how to achieve those results