Ep 147: Snapshot: How to pose and shoot a large portrait shoot in hard sunlight

As photographers, sometimes the conditions we’re given to shoot in aren’t ideal. In this episode, Gina Milicia and Valerie Khoo answer a listener question about how to best tackle a group portrait shoot in hard sunlight.

Gina and Valerie will show you what problems to be aware of when shooting in hard light and tips and tricks for making the most of a tricky shoot.

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Show notes

Listener question

Eva Solymosy:

Hi guys, you may have some tips for me… I have my first assignment the coming Monday. It is for a group plus portrait photography of 9 people, the high potentials of the year of my company, followed by a reportage of the presentations.

The weather forecast is bright & sunny and the group and portrait shoots will be made outside with ambient light. The timing is rather scary and I cannot do anything about is: starting at 11.00 a.m. The location is a large open terrace with chairs and tables or the court garden with some low bushes; or at the parking lot in front of the building. We have all around the reflecting windows of a rather characteristic office building, covered with small white tiles.

Thus my worry #1: proper use of lighting under these conditions.

Worry #2 is posing of the group plus 9 individuals for the portrait shoots there after. As they are a bunch of young high-po’s my dream is to make dynamic shoots, rather than those stiff and boring standards. As the shoots are for corporate use I am thinking of a blurry yet recognisable background of the place, The Company.

As this is me directing a group of 9 first ever as well as making official portraits there after, I don’t want to be over ambitious just keep it as simple as possible. Or am I already over-over ambitious, considering all these circumstances?

My gear is a Nikon D7200, lensen of 36 mm, 50 mm and 18-200mm, a tripod and 40″ 5-in 1 reflection screens plus an off camera flash which I am trying to avoid using.

Please share, if you have some suggestions for a job like this.

Hard sun at high noon can be a nightmare

  • Squinty eyes
  • Racoon eyes
  • Harsh shadows

Metering and exposure

  • Shoot manual mode
  • Select spot metering and meter off skin tones
  • Expose for skin tones
  • Reflected light vs actual light

1. Look for shade

Building that creates open shade
Large Scrim (white sheet or commercial scrim)

2. Use fill light

Hard light creates high contrast in images. The best way to decrease contrast is to increase the tonal range

High contrast images go from dark to light very quickly
Low contrast images have a more subtle shift in tones or more detail in the midtones

Reflector or bounce board to add more fill light
Artificial light or fill flash

3. Back light images and expose for skin tones

4. Work with the hard light

5. HDR

6. Pray to the weather gods for cloud cover


Posing tips

  • Walking
  • 90210
  • Last supper
  • Build interest by staggering heights

Give everyone a pose and something to do

Look down or close eyes before you take the photo
Shoot tripod and shoot extra frames in case someone blinks or squints



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How to direct and pose like a pro


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About Gina

Gina Milicia is one of the most widely known and respected photographers in Australia. She is the master of capturing that ‘magical moment’... READ MORE

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