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Bright Light Photography

Portraits At High Noon

Bright Portrait LightA common misconception about photography is that light is always good. In fact, too much light makes a very unflattering portrait.  In the case of this example, too much light creates very harsh shadows and the eyes disappear into deep pockets. Or, as in this case, the eyes disappear and the nose is lit, making the nose the subject of the image.

To photograph in bright sunlight, the first thing you need is shade. In this case, I used an umbrella. This is called subtracting light. By subtracting the bright light you create an even light on the subject. When I photographed the subject, I just added light (the camera’s flash) to create a pleasing and evenly lit portrait.

The second way you can do this is to put your subject in the shade. Then use a reflector
to add back the light evenly on the

Heavy Lighting
Eyes dissapear & nose becomes the subject

Headshot shaded by an Umbrella
Headshot shaded by an Umbrella

Shade with Reflector added
Shaded face with reflector adding back light evenly

Foam Board Lighting
Foam Board Lighting

face by using a white board or a photographic reflector. Tilt the reflector until it catches the light and then aim that light back at your subject. For the reflector in this image, I used a piece of foam board that I purchased at Kmart. If you want something more flexible, use poster board.

It is always best to avoid bright light no matter what you are photographing, whether it is landscapes, portraits or anything else. The best light for any subject is just before sunset. However, when you can’t have the best light, the next best thing is to know how to create your own.


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  1. THIS IS TERRIFIC HELP!!!! I don’t take photos professionally (I’d LOVE to some day..) but I hate taking pictures of my toddler & realizing later that I can barely see his face!! Especially since when I am taking pictures outside in bright light it’s mainly because it’s a milestone or something like that. lol.
    Thanks again!! 🙂


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