As you have all experienced the challenges of taking a great photo in bright and harsh sunshine, it is possible, but you need to know how and be prepared.

Common occurrences that seem to appear in all images that are shot in this environment are the likes of unwanted glare, back shadows and dappled light. Often when photographing people, there is excess burn out, making editing a nightmare to correct properly. Again, there is always a challenge when shooting into the sun, where you either have a perfect background, but the foreground ends up as an underexposed dark silhouette.

This is where being creative and understanding light plays a major role in illuminating theses issues. It is important that you also understand how to shoot with your camera in manual mode.

I suggest, that if you are doing a lot of outdoor photography and are unsure of the manual settings and don’t quite understand how to read light, attend a short workshop and you will see your photography remarkably improve. But in the meantime, try apply the “sunny 16 rule”, which is where you set your camera to ISO 100, shutter speed to 1/100 and your aperture to f16, and then… you can start to play with the settings to get the correct exposure, as well as the desired look and feel.


Tips that I share with my students in our Outdoor Workshop

Find even shade on a bright day

If you’re in the city, note where the sun is shining and use the adjacent building where the shade provides solid cover for your subject. Even cover provides diffused and an even light source. This light will cancel out any glare or dappled light, making your subject clean and easy to control when doing your test.

Remember that it is always a good idea to keep your subject at least a meter from the background if there is a wall involved, as distance in this case will  provide a diffused background shadow and wash the light more evenly.

Look for doorways and entrances

In bright sunshine, a doorway or an entrance that is set back, or has some form of awning, can provide great shade and even light. Shooting in this ambiance, is often used for portraiture as if can create amazing textures using filtered soft light.

Create your own shade and cover

If you are at a restaurant and the light is harsh, either ask to move tables, or just concentrate on directing the shoot under the outdoor table umbrella for even shaded lighting. There is definitely always a way, just be creative and open minded to work with your environment.

Portable and affordable camera gear that helps

Invest in a portable reflector, it is very light and affordable and takes up little space. Reflectors are great to either reflect the sun onto the subject to burn out dappled or unwanted shadows, or as a diffuser scrim, for filtering direct sunlight. Reflectors can be used to transform harsh light into soft and diffused natural light.

Often the reflector is great to bounce light off a white or bright back wall as opposed to using direct sun. This provides a nice result to cast light onto your subject, ensuring it is soft and even. A color wall will also provide a shade of light, which is great for creating ambience. A red wall for example will provide a red tint of light being reflected onto your subject.

Just a small tip when using s reflector, you need an assistant to hold and operate it as you cannot you everything yourself, and, take the surface into consideration that you are bouncing the light off, the shinier the surface, such as glass or a wet road will create a light harsher than a mat surface.

A second, yet more pricey approach, is to invest in a speedlight flash, which can be used on or off the camera. This would be my first choice, as you can do a lot more with it both indoors, as well as in areas of unwanted shadow. Great as a light filler for fashion and portraiture.

Again, consider attending a short workshop in flash photography, it can really be useful.


Lastly, even when you are just out and about, take note of outdoor lighting and where the shadows fall. Keep questioning yourself on every turn as to what you would do with your subject in these cases. References also prove to be helpful as to where to best position the subject, and where the light source comes from, in terms planning the outcome of the shot you wish to capture.


Have fun, and use the elements to make the shot work, just think out the box with your lighting. You cannot move the sun, but you can move your subject…