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I saw an advertisement on TV and was very impressed by the videography in direct sunlight (the setting was a beach). Here is a link to the advertisement. Two photos from the ad are shown below. As you can see, there are no harsh shadows or yellowing of the skin, which is usually seen in very sunny environments. Whenever I take my photos in direct sunlight, they come out as they do in the third photo.

Advertisement screen grabs (sorry, couldn't get rid of the playback buttons)

enter image description here

enter image description here

Example of typical sunlight photo (note the shadows are much harsher):

enter image description here

How do I make my sunlight photos more like the advertisement?

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1. Fill the shadows

You can use a big white reflector to bounce light, which would be the best and cheapest option, or if you have a big budget get a ton of sun white balanced light.

With still photography is easier, you can use the bounced light the same as for video or use a flash.

If you want DOF you also need to reduce the overall light using ND filters.

2. Screen the direct sunlight

I just noticed the diffuse shadow on the lady on some shots... yeap you take a big light frame made of aluminum or carbon fiber tubes (aluminum is way cheaper), put a translucent white fabric (nylon) and put it above your talents.

For small frames, let's say 2x2 m, you can use PVC pipes.

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  • 1
    True. No one can see what is behind and out of the scene. – Crowley Oct 14 '19 at 21:45
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    It's called a "scrim." – Michael C Oct 15 '19 at 8:25
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No-budget options:

  • Wait for some clouds to show up. Clouds are big and white, so just having some in the sky can provide light from different directions to fill in shadows somewhat.

  • Shoot near a white wall. A sunlit wall is a huge reflector that'll give you soft light. Orient your subject relative to the sun and the wall to get the kind of light that you want.

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Set your alarm clock earlier.

Early-morning sun has a naturally "pale" look, before the sun gets more intense. If you check the shadow on the man bending over, it's relatively long. Natural sunlight at about 6-8am would give you exactly this kind of picture.

The sea and the white sand on the beach also act as natural reflectors. Beach photos often have less prominent shadows because of this.

If you're taking pictures in a hot climate, there are other advantages of filming earlier too. The microclimate is strongly driven by thermals off the land, which haven't had a chance to kick in by then. As a result, any clouds will be high-altitude and attractively wispy, there will be little breeze, and the sea will be fairly calm. When the land heats up and the thermal cycle starts, the wind will pick up, the waves will pick up, and larger cumulus clouds may build up which will affect your sky shots.

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  • Shooting in snow can give really good fill reflection as well. – Jerry Coffin Oct 16 '19 at 20:32

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