Being summer, you’ll enjoy a lot of bright, sunny days – which seem like a perfect time to pull out your camera for some beautiful portraits of your kids. However, you’ll soon find that shooting in the sun is tricky. It introduces a lot of shadows, causes squinting, and may result in an underexposure of faces when competing with bright backgrounds. So what should you do?
Luckily, there are a few options:
Invest in Equipment
For a small investment you can buy a foldable reflector to “bounce” light back onto your subject to fill in a children’s portrait when you’re working with bright backgrounds. A reflector will even out shadows and bring brightness to the face. In a pinch, you can cover a piece of cardboard with white paper, or aluminum foil. You can even place your subject opposite a while wall for added light.
Tip: If purchasing a reflector, get one with a variety of covers (white, gold, silver) to change the light. Gold works well to make warmer skin tones. Some reflectors also have a transparent layer that you can use to cut down direct light.
Use Flash (A Little)
Employing your flash on a bright, sunny day seems like madness – but it works. Learn how to dial down your flash intensity through the camera’s menu so it’s just enough to “fill” in the shadows and balance the exposure. It will take some practice, but once you have a handle on it you’ll find that it really works as a method to give you good sunny day portrait photos.
Tip: Using a diffuser over your flash will help give a softer look and eliminate red eye. In a pinch, tape a tissue over your flash.
Ideally, use this method when the sun or light source is in the background of your children’s portrait – so you don’t get squinty eyes, but can still make your subject stand out from the background.
Get Out of the Sun
This method can work pretty well, as long as you are aware of your background. Find something interesting, such as the play of sunlight on the leaves. If the light is too bright, you can use the fill flash method or reflector mentioned above. Also, make sure that where your child is positioned for the photo has even light.
When All Else Fails
Occasionally, you may be stuck in a sunny scene with no way to balance out the shadows in a children’s portrait. In this case, there are a few options. You can increase exposure so the face is correctly exposed (although this means your background will be overexposed). Or, you can create a silhouette by underexposing the foreground – which works really well around sunset. Finally, you can try incorporating lens flare for a creative, intentional touch. Experiment with different methods to find one that works well to create some beautiful, sunny portraits of your kids.