6 ways to keep shooting in harsh light

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6 ways to keep shooting in harsh light: 04. Backlighting

4. Backlighting

As mentioned earlier, some plants look fabulous when they are back-lit because their translucent structure comes to life.

But that’s not the limit to backlighting, there are many other subjects that look great when lit from behind, it’s a good option for portraits for example.

The key to shooting a back-lit subject is to set the exposure for your subject and not the background.

The easiest way to do this is to set your camera to spot-metering mode and ensure that the spot (usually the active AF point these days, but it maybe the centre of the frame) is over your subject when you set the exposure.

The end result should be a correctly exposed subject against and bright, possibly burned out background.

If you want to create a more high-key look, increase the exposure a little to brighten your subject further.

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6 ways to keep shooting in harsh light: 05. Fill-in flash

5. Fill-in flash

A burst of flash, ideally from an off-camera unit, will flood shadows with light and reduce the contrast of a harshly-lit scene dramatically. It also puts you in control of light-levels and exposure.

For the best results the flash should be softened with some form of diffuser or soft box and positioned towards the opposite side of the subject to the ambient light source so that the shadows receive light.

Modern TTL (Through The Lens) flash metering systems do all the hard work for you, but you can adjust the brightness of the flash output using the flash exposure compensation controls on the gun or camera.

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6 ways to keep shooting in harsh light: 06. Find shade

6. Find shade

Our final way to deal with harsh light is to get out of it and find some shade.

It’s a technique that’s favoured by many professional wedding and portrait photographers.

Positioning your subject in the shade of a tree means that they won’t be squinting into the sun and you can use a burst of flash to lift the exposure so that they look as bright as the surroundings beyond the shade.


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Bracketing Explained: how to capture fine detail in shadows and highlights
10 portrait photography mistakes every photographer makes (and how to avoid them)

  • M.Smith

    Excellent article on the discussion of USING harsh light. First that people should realize what harsh light is and what it isn’t. However, when given lemons (harsh light) make lemonaide….I would take a model/friend with me out into the streets of NYC and we would just walk around the city and at random times she would say, ‘okay take my photo’ and I would then have to use what I had to get a professional looking photo. It is fun and very challenging but you learn….Great job on this article. Thanks.