Is direct sun or shade better for photos?

This is a question and I often hear and I thought I'd share a few secrets to get the best summery photos. 

Summer is the most popular time of the year to have family photos taken and we're all naturally drawn to beautiful, sunny, bright parks. 

Direct sunlight, however, is not always great for pictures. The rising sun and the setting sun certainly is, because it shines a gentle light and comes from a low angle, creating a wonderful and dreamy atmosphere. We like that! But the midday sun... leaves us with harsh shadows under the eyes and on the sides of the mouth, little pearls of sweat rolling dow on foreheads, lots of squinting when looking at the camera, or at each other, or anywhere basically, and insane contrast, which also means losing details in the blacks and highlights of the image. Of course this kind of sunlight can be balanced out with flash (giving up on natural look), or with shooting against the sun (blowing the entire background white due to too much light). It's ok, and it works, but it won't result in extremely versatile photos. 

surrey family photosession

So then how do we get those happy summer vibes in the photos?

In shade! Surprisingly.

Or, like I mentioned before, super early morning, or just when the sun is going down. Most children are knackered by then (and I am at dawn), so I will just discuss the shady option.  When I say shade, even one huge tree would do it. Or a chalk quarry - which I recently used.

Tall things that can partially block or filter the light for us, making it softer and more pleasant. The more tall things there are the better it is, because they also provide us with a great background to play with. The final images will still be bright, but also will be way more rich in terms of tones and colours than one taken directly in the sun. Shade allows us to move freely. Kids will run away and jump around, and in shade we can totally let them do that, without me going on about eye-socket shadows and things like that. 

surrey family photo session

Other than a wise choice of location, there is more you can do to boost the hot July look. Dress up in light summer dresses, bring straw hats, buy ice cream at the park side, or if we're shooting in your garden, turn on the sprinklers and have the children play with the water. It's also a good way to wash them off after giving them a huge slice of watermelon. 

Of course there is a way to achieve great photos right under the midday sun, but that's going to be a whole new blog post. Those photos are rather planned and controlled, and because they require extra lighting and assistance, are restricted to mostly one spot of a location. Perfect for fashion shoots - not so ideal for family shoots that are all about spontaneity. 

Tekla Szocs