How to bounce light and lift shadows from your subject’s face

Use a reflector to bounce light back up

How to bounce light and lift shadows from your subject's face

With nice weather there is always the temptation to go outside and shoot outdoor portraits. But unfortunately with nice weather you get strong light, which can prove just as great a challenge for photographers as rain and bad weather. This is because of the harsh shadows it casts under eyes and chins. Below is a simple method you can use to bounce light back on to your subject’s face, and a metering technique to help you get a spot-on exposure.

Our first shot

Our first shot

Bounce the light
On all but the most overcast days, harsh shadows caused by direct sunlight are a problem.

Use a reflector to bounce light back up

Use a reflector or some ordinary white cardboard to reflect light back onto your subject’s face and illuminate shadow areas around the nose, neck and eyes.


Choose the right metering mode

Pick a metering mode
You want to expose for the skin tones without worrying about the background exposure, so use centre-weighted metering. Keep the subject’s face in the middle of the frame, lock the exposure value (EV) and then recompose.


Check the image

Check the image
Take the shot, look at it on your camera’s LCD screen and check that the skin tones appear bright and smooth. Now call up the histogram. It should look fairly balanced around the central midtones without being stacked heavily to the far left or right.


See the light like a pro: everything you were afraid to ask about natural light
The essential A-Z of photography slang terms
Annoying problems at common aperture settings (and how to solve them)
Bounce flash photography techniques in 4 simple steps