When photographing people in bright sunlight, parts of faces are often shaded by hats or by their own contours. This creates highly-contrasted faces, and either a very bright background or very dark faces.

Using flash doesn't always help, especially when photographing a large group (~10 people) from a little distance.

What's your solution for this common situation?


For me, I have reflectors which can be positioned (sometimes with help) so as to fill in the light on the subjects. There are some reasonable 5-in-1 options out there, I have a 43" version of one of them and it works very well, folding up to a pretty small package and giving lots of options for cooling or warming the light as needed.

If you don't have reflectors, but do have larger, bright, surfaces you use, then that too is an option. What it really boils down to is getting some of generally available light redirected to the place you want it and, for that, many reasonably reflective items will help a great deal if sufficiently large. Heck, it can even by some bristol board or shiny wrapping paper, I've done both.

Anyways, those are what I do and, to be honest, I prefer that sort of light over a flash anyways. Fill flash can harsh, especially when it is on camera, and so I prefer to avoid it.

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  • The diffuser that usually comes with the 5-in-1 reflectors is also useful, if you have an assistant to hold it between the sun and the subject. – ElendilTheTall Aug 7 '11 at 9:47

Fill in flash is my preferred solution to this problem, as it allows me to shoot unencumbered holding onto extra bits of kit. Reflectors are great for portraits / couples, but I find them fiddly for larger groups, and when you need to move around.

As John mentions, direct flash can be harsh, but a ringflash (or ringflash adaptor) makes the ideal fill in light. As the light surrounds the lens, it doesn't cast a shadow in any particular direction and adds a more or less constant amount of light all over the subject, filling in all the shadows.

You mention that flash doesn't work for large distances, and that's true. But if you're too far away for flash then you're also too far away for reflectors (unless you have a really really large reflector, which isn't going to practical), in this case your only option is to relocate to a shaded area, bring in a more powerful flash, like a studio strobe, or reschedule for later in the day.

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