My question is much related to harsh light in natural light conditions. Suppose I am taking photos of a model 3/4. I know that when shooting during midday, when the sun is very vivid, because of its size and direction, the only I can do to avoid deep shadows is compensating with a reflector or an external flash on the one side. However, isn't the lighting as a whole harsh again? I mean harsh, in terms of vividness. It is not soft, is it? Whereas, during golden hours or at a studio, you can control the vividness. Am I wrong?

What do you think?


1 Answer 1


Direct sunlight is a very hard light - that means the edges of the shadows are sharp and that the shadows are very dark - people tend to look bad in this light.

A big reflector near the model reflect soft light (because it's big and close) even if the light hitting it is hard sunlight.

So, if you position your model so that most of the are facing the camera are lit by direct sunlight with a reflector on the other side you have a hard key light with a soft fill.

But if you position the model so that most of the area facing the camera is in shadow and then add a reflector you suddenly have a soft key light - much better looking.

At the extreme you can position your model with his/her back to the sun (obviously this doesn't work mid-day when the sun is directly above) so what you get is basically a silhouette and then add a reflector in front to be the only light hitting the model - now you have a soft light portrait with the hard direct sunlight working as a heir light or a kicker.

You can always control the direction of light (relative to the model and camera) by moving the model and or camera, you can always change the light quality and color with a reflector or random objects you find in the shooting location - difficult ambient light just means you have to be more imaginative and work harder.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you, Nir! I am just asking what happens if the one side of the face of a model is hit with sun light and the other side is controlled by a reflector. From what I understand from your reply is that I have a hard light on the one side and a soft fill on the other. Is this right? In this case there is not a balance over the light on the face! \$\endgroup\$
    – Morpho
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 15:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Morpho - this is not a problem, you can control the power and softness of the light by moving the reflector closer of farther from the model and by using a bigger or smaller reflector, it's all controllable and you should play around until you get the look you want - and you probably don't want balance, balanced light is boring, interesting light has direction and shadows and often color - and if you do want balance you don't do it in direct sunlight, you find some shade. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nir
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ What do you mean by shadows? Can you share with me an example? \$\endgroup\$
    – Morpho
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 20:48

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