Photography tip: shooting your subject backlight during harsh sunny day

I have a small tip regarding shooting portraiture during harsh sunny day.

Usually when people want to take a photo during harsh sunny day, they will say something like, it is backlight so your face is in the shade. Let’s face this way so the light will be on your face. Actually I remember that is exact my mindset too before I learn photography. But it is a common mistake novice make.

I do not have photo to show you right now. But if your subject is facing harsh sunlight. There will be very harsh shadow below the eyes. People will look like Panda. Also your subject will have hard time to open eyes. Their facial expression won’t be brilliant. Let’s say that we do not have any light modifier, such as diffuser. We can simply shoot our subject backlight. Yes, normally you will get a very dark exposure, the subject will be dark. That is common when people using their cellphone or point and shoot camera to take the photo. That is the reason why people always say do not shoot backlight. However if you use camera that has manual control, you just simply dial your exposure to make it brighter. You can either use exposure compensation or total manual exposure to achieve it. Let me show you two photo I did a while ago.

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Look at the shadow, you will get an idea that the sun is very harsh right now, and because of the direction of the shadow, you know it was shoot backlight.

because it is backlight, if you expose the face right, it will have very soft and high quality light on the subject. and the harsh sun light act like a hair light or kick light. Overall just a very pleasing photo regarding lighting.

You need to do some retouch in post. You need to recover some highlight and raise shadows. Because these was shot in Raw, I can get most out of it.

Ok, a very simple tips. Next time when you shoot portrait during harsh sunny day, try to shoot your subject backlight. Just dial your exposure to make it brighter. And shoot in Raw and retouch in post to achieve the best result.

Keep shooting. Have a nice week.


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