How to Take Portraits in the Sun

Shooting portraits outdoors on a sunny day is never easy for any photographer, whether you are a professional or a novice. The sun can cast shadows all over your subject. In addition, the sun is always moving, so you have to constantly adjust to deal with it. There are tools and tricks of the trade, however, that will help you make your outdoor portrait sessions a success, no matter how bright the sun is shining.

Things You'll Need

  • Reflectors
  • Diffusers
  • Flash


    • 1

      Shoot in the shade whenever possible. This is the easiest way to avoid having to deal with the harsh light of the sun. Use a cluster of trees, the shade of a large building or an awning. The person you are shooting should be completely in the shade. The background should also not have bright areas of sun, either.

    • 2

      Avoid shooting around noon, when the sun is high in the sky. If you have to shoot in direct sunlight, noon is the worst time because of the strong shadows the sun will cast on your subject. Try to shoot between sunrise and late morning or late afternoon to sunset for your best lighting options.

    • 3

      Shoot when clouds are covering the sun. Clouds soften and diffuse sunlight, making it ideal for outdoor portraits. White balancing, which helps keep the colors of your subject accurate, is essential on a cloudy day. Your camera may already have pre-set white balance options, including one specifically for cloudy days. If not, you will have to refer to your camera's manual to determine how to properly set the white balance for your specific camera.

    • 4

      Use professional photo equipment such as reflectors and diffusers when shooting in the midday sun. A reflector helps to reflect light onto the person's face, eliminating shadows. A diffuser, made of mesh stretched over a frame, helps to diffuse, or spread the light around the person's face. You will need an assistant to hold either of these tools close to the person's face when taking pictures.

    • 5

      Shoot at sunrise or sunset. You can take well-lit outdoor portraits during sunrise and sunset. Keep the sun behind you for a shadowless picture. You can also create stunning photographs with the sunset or sunrise in the background. Use fill flash on your camera to light the front of the person, or don't use flash to create a silhouette portrait, with just the shadow of the person's face with the sun in the background.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

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