Let’s talk about every photographers’ nightmare – harsh light. I’m here to give some tips to survive it!
1. Watch for shadows. As you can see, grandpa is leaning slightly forward that casts a shadow on grandma. It’s not on her face so it’s fine, but you want to make sure you angle everyone so avoid that as much as possible. Tucking people close up against each other is a good was to do this (see how grandma barely casts a shadow on her daughter in the maroon shirt beside her as they are touching each other shoulder to shoulder.
2. Know what “look” your clients want. My clients specifically asked if they could have the mountains in the background. This is why I chose to shoot with the sun behind me vs. behind them. If the mountains weren’t a consideration I would have backlit them for a more bright and airy look.
3. Shoot with a longer lens if you want to avoid the long shadows on the ground in the previous images. Not always possible for large groups (I would have fallen into a ditch to fit a large group in with a tight lens), but great for smaller groups.
4. Be aware of your highlights AND your shadows. I didn’t shoot so bright that the hot spot on her white shirt became overly distracting, but I didn’t shoot so dark either that their faces would become muddy. You have to ride the middle ground hard in lighting situations like this and for the love of all thing – shoot RAW!
5. Watch your editing. I added a lot of contrast to these with levels in PS and that caused my skin to swing towards highlights (see baby’s cheek). I feel like it’s passable but a more “matte” edit will help here. You could also use masking to add contrast to non skin areas, too, if you like.
6. Watch out for your own shadow! If mine (far right) was the only shadow I would have cropped or cloned it out. Because we had alternating shadows and highlights across the ground throughout from other family members, I feel like it blends okay. If these were not kids being cute, I would have moved them to the left and reshot, but I wouldn’t have gotten this expression again so I left it.
7. Editing – again. I cloned them out on the delivered copy, but look at the round “smudges” in the sky on the left. When you shoot very closed down, ANY dirt or dust on your sensor will show up. Just watch that it’s not on faces and you’re good. Also, notice how in this photo the aunt’s face is a little less bright? There were sparse trees behind us filtering the light a bit. Again, this is just a matter of watching your highlights and shadows carefully and using the odd radial filter where needed to boost exposure.