Amanda - Learning to Deal With Harsh Light

For the Photographers: We can’t always shoot in “ideal” situations especially when were at weddings. It might be high noon, the reception hall pitch black, or it starts pouring rain. It’s our job to improvise and get creative. Sometimes when you are shooting in not so ideal conditions you get some of your most creative work. For bright light use a diffuser, shade, tall buildings to control your light, and be mindful how you position your client.


For the Photographed: Be mindful of where the main light source is coming from. If you have ever looked at photographs of yourself you can start to learn what is the most attractive lighting for you. If you are in a shaded area be mindful of “sun spots” (where the bright sun “leaks” through the branches and makes little light patches on your face = not attractive).

Amanda has beautiful long legs so it’s important that if you are going to included them that you don’t “hide” them. This is a bad example; the grass hides her legs.

For the photographed: Its natural to want to just stand straight for a photo, however we don’t naturally do this when we are standing and talking with people. We shift our weight from one foot to the other. I told Amanda to stick her hip to the side, and not stand directly straight on to the lens. From there I wanted her to move from one leg to the other to get a more fluid motion.

For the Photographer: For this shot the sun was directly in her face with just a hint of cloud, which normally would be a problem. But with the 5 in 1 reflector set I used the diffusion side and had my awesome assistant Branden Harvey hold it above her face. The closer it is to her face the more it fills in the shadows and brightens/shows off those amazing eyes. Not to mention we had some great wind in our favor.

For the Photographer: This one is the opposite. We have the sun on her back and a white reflector on her face that you can actually see in her eyes. While it’s important to have light on the persons face, back-light is almost always forgotten about. The sun can be very great for this, when it’s on their back it shows off their hair and gives the photo a lot more depth and contrast. Try and take advantage of a light in front and back of your subject whenever possible.

For the Photographed: When the camera is very close to your face the heat is on for you. Your face has to sell the image. Never give cheesy smiles, and if they say don’t smile don’t give a blank stare. It helps to think of a memory, to try and intensify your eye muscles and slightly raise the left or right side of your mouth. Also lifting your head ever so slightly with your eyes looking straight is a plus.

For the Photographers: When you are in a shaded area it’s very important to make sure you are filling in the face shadows. A lot of times you get great light on the cheekbones and forehead but the eyes are left out. But the eyes are the BEST PART OF THE IMAGE. That’s what people look at first, so use a white board of any kind and reflect the light softly into their face.

Here is an example of where you might want the reflector.

For the Photographed: When your sitting down it’s very important to give variation to your legs and arms. If you have one leg up have the other down. This is not always true but it’s a great rule of thumb.

For the Photographer: When someone is sitting down things can get “boring” fast with the same pose. Help them by letting them know they can move their arms and posture around after each frame. This will help with them feeling stiff and you might even get some great laughs in the process. Another trick is to tell them not to laugh, this usually makes them laugh because they try and get all-serious.

For the Photographers: Here we are out in direct sun with a diffuser right over her. Tell her to look a little past your frame, then right into the frame. Tell her to blink 5 times, then look away and quickly look back. All these things help them to keep moving and will almost always get them relaxed and either in a laugh or great story like emotion!

This is what it looks like without a diffuser.

Here you can see that holding the diffuser close to her face evens out all the harsh light and acts as a huge soft box.

I am a huge fan of a basic image. The less in the background the more you can focus on your person. Instead of trying to fit more things into your lens, focus on taking things out.

This photo is just for kicks. But it is a good example of a bad photo with too much going on.


A huge thanks to Branden Harvey for being awesome, thanks again man! He also does great work that you can see by clicking on his name. Also I would be lying if Amanda was not a blast to photograph and just hang out with!