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The Kindred Sun Challenge

A few weeks ago we challenged you to embrace the golden sun of the warm summer season and share with us some of the images you've created in direct light. We were just absolutely amazed at the gorgeous work you produced! This kind of lighting can certainly be a challenge if it's new to you, but it adds so much to photograph! We're sharing with you here the work this community submitted for the journal. Each photographer has shared some advise or tips for working in this light. We'd love for you to read through and learn from each other!


Salt+Grace Photography, Jessica Lanford

North Alabama

From the Photographer:

When I first started doing photography I use to be terrified to shoot in harsh direct sunlight. Over the years I’ve learned when I don’t have shade I make sure the sun is always behind my clients. Then you will get gorgeous images like this!!


Carike Fouche Photography, Carike Fouche

Bonnyville, Alberta

From the Photographer:

Lesson/tip: this was shot on a beach with pretty harsh light, not quite in golden hour. Turn your client so that the sun is behind them and shoot the image at a 45 degree angle to avoid sun flare. Having the sun behind the subject ensures that the client is in even light head to toe and the backlighting creates a beautiful golden glow around the client. A lens hood will also help to minimize flare.


Valerie Callan Photography, Valerie Vaughan


From the Photographer:

My tip for shooting in direct sunlight is to have the subjects interacting, and to shoot film, it evens out the harsh light beautifully!


Kelly White Photography, Kelly White

Little Rock, Arkansas

From the Photographer:

I actually prefer mid-morning or mid-afternoon sessions because of the way the full sun brings a feeling of movement and authenticity to the image. One tip I've learned is that when open shade doesn't provide full coverage, just use your tallest figure to shield your other subjects in the image. I love how this father provides shelter from the sun for his partner, and how they both give shade to their sons.


Lauren Sosler Photography, Lauren Sosler

Asheville, North Carolina

From the Photographer:

Tip: embrace the sun! Get creative and have fun. Sidelight your subject or have them look to the side as the sun hits their cheek to create emotion to your photograph. Full on sun can make a portrait feel so bold and sexy - just like this expecting Mama.


Katherine Jianas Photography, Katherine Jianas

Atlanta, Georgia

From the Photographer:

Taken full sun at noon but found some shade!


Mandy Marie, Mandy Schuster

Denver, Colorado

From the Photographer:

Paige Forden taught me everything I know! Direct sun is almost unavoidable in Colorado…in the summer, with toddler bedtimes. Happy toddlers > golden hour light. Dappled light is one way to continue to achieve that softness in images while producing intrigue as well!


Beatific Visions Photography, Adrianne Shelton

Richmond, Virginia

From the Photographer:

Sun hats are your friend. In very intense light, a sun hat can be helpful in keeping detail on the subjects’ face, and keep kids shaded and happy when snuggling up to mom.


Jessica McNitt Photography, Jessica McNitt

Chicago, Illinois

From the Photographer:

At the beginning of my career, I would shy away from direct light due to being scared of how the shadows would cast on my subject/how harsh the light would be. I have learned throughout my time as a photographer to embrace the light, go out into the open field, and play around with how the rays hit your subject. Some tips I have are to: face your subjects towards their shadows so the light isn't directly hitting their faces, if it's a family or couple, have the taller person help diffuse the light on the shorter subjects and make them a bit of a light blocker, and look at how the light is hitting your subjects face and direct them on how to stand so it casts the most flattering shadows.


With Love and Lace, Melanie Stevens

Victoria, Australia

From the Photographer:

Have the subject close their eyes until your ready to take the photo.


Maddy Mallory Photography, Maddy Bratcher

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

From the Photographer:

I have never enjoyed shooting in full sun so much until I started shooting film. Film maintains detail in the highlights so beautifully, even when metered for the shadows, and evokes a softness that I could never quite accomplish with a digital format.


Kylie Lloyd Photography, Kylie Lloyd

Boulder, Colorado

From the Photographer:

As a photographer who loves shooting at sunset and during golden hour mostly back lighting my subjects, I panicked a little at the thought of front, direct light. What I discovered is that being open minded about all types of light scenarios can lead to some beautiful and artistic images. I can’t wait to play with more direct sunlight in all its forms.


Becca Allen Photography, Rebecca Allen

Washington, DC

From the Photographer:

I love using soft, direct light. I use the last few minutes of light left in the day to directly light my subject, which allows the background to display beautifully.


Caitlyn Motycka Photography, Caitlyn Motycka

Charleston, South Carolina

From the Photographer:

So much of our open shade here in Charleston comes with dappled light, so when shooting during the brighter portion of my sessions I have tried to embrace that dappled light instead of shying away. I typically lean on film when shooting in harsh light, and will position my clients in the light so that their faces are mostly, if not completely, in the shade. Sometimes it takes a little of shuffling around to get them in the right spot- but don't hesitate to ask them to take a few steps in a certain direction or to turn their body to block the light in some way. Where the rest of the dappled light hits beyond their face is what makes it so dreamy to me!


Marie Elizabeth Photography, Marie Tilkens

Washington, DC

From the Photographer:

I love playing with light. It can be scary at first, and you may even accidentally create something you love. One of my favorite kinds of light I adore exploring is any light that is filtered through something, such as trees or even a window. Dappled light can be a beautiful addition to an image, as long as it appears to have some kind of purpose (sometimes the purpose is simply to make it beautiful!). I loved incorporating the dappled light into this image because it is a portrait of an expecting mother; the dappled light draws the attention to the mother and this season she is in. For harsher light settings, I prefer shooting film, simply because it handles highlights so well. In this image, the light has been filtered through a few trees, so there is not too strong of a contrast - still creating a delicate and romantic feel.


Hannah Mann

Boise, Idaho

From the Photographer:

I love shooting in direct light, so I was very excited to join in on this challenge! Direct lighting can be more intimidating because of the possibility of seriously blowing out highlights and getting lots of empty white areas. However, using direct light that is filtered by trees, clouds, etc. is genuinely one of my favorite lighting scenarios and I have all kinds of examples I’d love to share.


One light scenario I love is shooting in direct light that is softened by clouds or open shade. Shooting with direct light like this - bright, yet not just blinding rays of sun - is what has created some of my most painterly feeling photographs. Especially when shooting film, soft light shining on your subject will make colors pop, skin tones come out beautifully clean, and will add so much dimension to your photo. It also creates beautiful catchlight in your subjects’ eyes, and shows off a stunning natural backdrop much more than backlight does. This image is an example of that kind of lighting scenario. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I also love dappled light! Dappled light is very fun and adds so much interest to a photo, but I think of it kind of like adding salt to my food: don’t go overboard.

⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Dappled light does not typically flatter faces, so it’s not something I would generally use for a portrait or other photo where the focus is on a subject’s face. (Of course, every rule in art is made to be broken, so feel free to find the right way to break this one!) Details, storytelling shots, etc. are my favorite for dappled light, or ones where I can keep even lighting on most of my subject’s face. A little bit of dappled light goes a long way.


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