I had the pleasure of photographing a lovely young woman named Lilita recently. She wanted photos to celebrate her upcoming birthday, which was not a milestone birthday in the traditional sense as it was an odd number between 2 decades. We met on a Sunday morning, the day before her actual birthday.
Schedules dictated an 8am meeting for our photo shoot. Lilita’s preference for a location happened to be a beachfront I frequented often with my dog when I lived in the same neighborhood many years ago. I knew we were off to a great start because I had many great memories there and an earlier introduction to Lilita proved her to be very personable and approachable.
Morning and late evening sun are typically great times of day for photography, but this morning sun caused unique problems. The sky was clear, the sun was bright and there was lots of white snow on the ground. This caused challenges with squinting and shadow, but they could be overcome with a few handy tricks:
- A trick to photograph someone in light that makes them squint. Ask the person to close their eyes and open them on your count. Be prepared to catch multiple shots. There will certainly be a few funny expressions in your final photos, but you should also catch a couple that are natural and squint-free.
- Use a flash with bright sunlight for a warm glow. That’s right. Use a flash in bright sunlight. Position the sun so it’s not in your subject’s eyes and use a fill flash to light their face. Get creative and position the sun directly behind their head to give a summer glow around their hair and use the flash to fill in the face. Be creative and find ways to work with the situation you have.
- Talk with your subject to release expressions and sideways looks that can’t be posed, and avoid sun squints naturally. I find that talking with my subjects makes us both feel more natural. Many people don’t like to be in front of a camera for lots of different reasons. As a photographer, I have reasons for feeling self conscious behind the camera. Talking with my subject relaxes both of us and allows me to capture expressions that can’t be posed. These often lead to sideways glances, body and head positions that come naturally to people rather than being asked to pose and look at the camera a certain way. There’s no better way to help a person’s natural personality come through!
What tips or tricks do you use when you have to work with bright sunlight when photographing people?