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The #1 Tip for Capturing Beautiful Portraits in Direct Sun

Photo of best direct sun portrait tip

Don’t be afraid of the sun! That’s the message from Jay P Morgan’s “number one tip” for photographing people outside in direct sunlight.

In the video from The Slanted Lens at the bottom of this post, Morgan demonstrates his simple, can’t-miss portrait tip while photographing a model in the sun. The trick is to use just a sliver of the direct sunlight so it doesn’t produce harsh shadows on the face that can give your subject unflattering “raccoon eyes.”

“Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to put her back towards the sun,” Morgan explains in the tutorial. “That sun is up high. And I’m not going to move her forward until I find the shadow transition edge. You see her shadow on the ground down there. I see that there’s shadow on her shoulders in that. But I see that her head is up into the sun. “

By positioning his model this way, the sunlight also creates “a nice rim light of sun on her hair.”

“It just looks beautiful,” he notes. “Now it will require that I’m going to have to have her keep walking forward slightly as the sun changes. And that’s okay. I’m just going to keep following her.”

You can take this natural light photography tip one step further by adding in a reflector. It’s not completely necessary but will help take your portrait to the next level.


“I’d bring her forward a little bit and I’d turn that reflector towards her,” he explains. “Now just bounce a little bit of that light back that’s coming over the top of her shoulders and bounce into it.”

So, while we’re often taught to avoid shooting portraits in direct sunlight because it’s too harsh, the trick is find ways to position your subject to the very edge of the light.

“I like this area because I’m on the shadow transition edge, which means I don’t have a lot of light on her body,” Morgan concludes. “It’s not a harsh sunlight. It’s a little softer because I’m kind of in that shadow transition in there. Which makes it a little bit softer. That’s the secret; getting her into that soft shadow transition between the sun and the shadow. It gives you a beautiful place to shoot.”

After you watch the video, enter your best portraits in our “People & Portraits” 2022 photo contest for a chance to win some awesome prizes and be featured on Digital Photo.


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