FAQ : Shooting in Bright Sun

ike any wedding photographer will admit, there are things that happen on a wedding day that are completely out of a photographer's control. Sure, I can plan and strategically approach a wedding in a myriad of ways, but every ounce of work can be tossed to the side because of bad weather, schedule delays, or a bridesmaid's missing shoe (yes, it really happened). The most important thing to keep in mind is to stay in control. And smile.

Last Saturday--due to the expansive nature of the wedding venue--I orchestrated where I'd photograph bridal party and family portraits in advance. The bride and groom opted to have all formal portraits taken before the wedding ceremony, so the coordinator and I planned to meet in a place that could accommodate the 24-person bridal party in open shade.

Then plans changed at the last minute.

The reasons for the change don't matter, because--let's face it--every wedding photographer has been in a similar pinch at one point in time. But what particularly left me flummoxed was the fact that I had to photograph all the bridal party pictures in full sun. My insides went to mush and I wanted to panic, but instead I smiled and said, OF COURSE!

So here's where the rubber meets the road: it was bright and hot and I needed to photograph 12 groomsmen, two ring bearers, and the groom on a small patch of grass in the blazing sun. I positioned them on the small patch of grass in front of the hotel suite, with the sun just overhead, and captured this photo using the 24mm lens, also using the light-colored sidewalk in front of the groomsmen as a natural reflector to pop light back into their faces. I was able to light their faces in post a little as well, but the use of the natural reflector made it easier to highlight later...

In the meanwhile, JD captured this candid using the 70-200 lens, metering for the groom's face...

And I captured this candid of the ring bearer...yes, there are highlights, but given the sun's position, I'm okay with how things look and the 24mm helped me pick up nearby reflected light while I metered for his face.

Just before I photographed the bridesmaids, I captured individual photos of the groom and each groomsman with the 50mm keeping them in the same position as the group shot so I could leverage the natural reflector from the sidewalk, and ensured I also captured a photo of the groom and his brothers...

At the end of the day, given our circumstances and last minute changes, I'm proud of what we produced in a short amount of time. Yes, I was panicked (and sweating like a swine about to be baconized), but it was important to take what we had and make it work. Now onto the bridesmaids.

Wanting a slightly different look, I utilized the hotel suite to position the 12 bridesmaids behind the bride and this is what resulted...

In the photo above, I carefully placed each bridesmaid in the shade, but used light from reflected sources to illuminate their faces. Both the bride and the maid of honor are picking up light from the terracotta floor in front of them and the bridesmaids behind them are picking up light from the walls in the staircase, and the bridesmaids in the porticos are picking up light from the floor below them (and I also lightened them in post by using a Levels layer in Photoshop and masking it just to light those four girls).

I try to capture 2-3 poses of the bridesmaids (one editorial, one traditional, one casual), so here's another one that resulted as the videographer asked the girls to look at his camera...

Using natural reflectors on the floor in front of them to off-set the light behind them, I photographed each bridesmaid with the bride... this post got entirely too long...good grief, I can really talk, eh? Talking is my specialty!!! In other news, I hope this post sheds light into how we approach shooting bridal party photos in atypical situations. Now I'm off to not talk anymore. JD thanks you.

Stay Fabulous,
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Ashley Urke - Thanks for the great tips! I would love to see an example of your three types of bridesmaids photos--editorial, traditional, and casual. This is wonderful idea to focus in on those three points without overtaking pictures or not getting enough!  06.24.13 - 1:56pm
Marylou Pipes - Love your posts.... You are my mentor Jasmine!  09.18.12 - 10:11pm
Ricki Ford - With my f100 and contax 645 this is my fave place to shoot back lit and with my f100 i spot meter back light is really rad with the contax. great shots!   06.27.12 - 11:52am
Josh Baltzell - These turned out great. I struggle with highlights when my portrait sessions have to happen in the middle of the day, but sometimes I think that the photographer frets over details like that while the clients just see their friends and families.  06.26.12 - 8:03am
Rachael Hughes - Great post Jasmine! I think as wedding photogs we can all relate. Great reminder about sidewalks reflecting natural light as well!   06.25.12 - 8:29pm
Jennifer Rice - I've been struggling with this! Thanks for sharing :) I'd love to know what f/stop you used on the bridal shot from the videographer pose... So many of them look in focus but they are definitely on different planes.... another struggle I have, f/stop choices. I am way to married to a shallow depth of field and it bites me in the butt... a lot! :(  06.25.12 - 12:19pm
Barrie Wedding Photographer - Great post, natural reflectors are still something I`m getting used to looking for. I love how positioned each bridesmaid in their own shaded position, very smart! Great shots and thanks for sharing!!  06.24.12 - 7:41am
Danielle Bryan - I LOVE the girls all spaced out!!! Great job Jasmine! I enjoyed this one on full sun, i have had this happen a time or two so its' nice to see how other photog's work with it! The nervous sweets..... i have been there!!!! ;-)   06.23.12 - 8:47am
Yair - Thank you for sharing! I found myself struggle sometime with big group but as photographer we do what we got to get the job done!  06.22.12 - 5:54pm
Keir Chapple - Forgive my ignorance, but what is the editorial pose?  06.22.12 - 11:52am
Becky Male - Bright sunshine also makes my stomach turn to mush. Thanks for being honest about how it made you feel too ! Love how you coped so well with such a huge bridal party and used natural surfaces to bounce natural light.  06.22.12 - 11:52am
Marissa Nicole - I had to shoot a gender reveal in full sun about a week ago. I prefer close to sun set, like most, but being they lived 2 hours away, I had to comprimise & shoot at 5. I was worried. I've never been good at high sun. I kept thinking the whole time "natural reflectors. natural reflectors".   06.22.12 - 8:47am
Brianna - Everyone looks sun-kissed instead of drowning in shadows! You both are so talented while being such a great team. :)  06.21.12 - 8:40pm
Becky B - Thanks for the tips! Would you mind posting what your camera settings were for each of these?   06.21.12 - 8:37pm
Rebecca Henasey - Thanks for talking about using things like sidewalks as reflectors, never really thought about it, but it totally worked here!  06.21.12 - 8:27pm
Sam Llanes - Pictures turned out great despite everything others do not see but that we photographers, know are not the most desirable conditions. Great work and thanks for sharing!   06.21.12 - 6:50pm
surrey wedding photographer - Love them all. How cool is the first bridesmaid shot. Come over to the Uk to shoot, you wouldn't have the problems the sun can inflict, just the rain. x  06.21.12 - 6:32pm
Denise Prichett - Jasmine, this FAQ is totally awesome!! But it is actual doing double duty because it covers shooting with the sun high in the sky and shooting a big bridal party. Thank you. Is it possible to see a full bridal party shot for how you positioned them with the sun issues and space for 24+ people?   06.21.12 - 4:34pm
nancypantsgirl - This is great! I love your tips!  06.21.12 - 2:32pm
Aaron - Way to go J*! You nailed it!! I'm totally going to introduce Baconize into my vocab from now on.  06.21.12 - 12:45pm
Aaron - Way to go J*!! You nailed it!! I'm totally going to introduce Baconize into my vovab for now on.  06.21.12 - 12:42pm
Joe - Hahahahah, "sweating like a swine about to be baconized". That's the best laugh I've had all day! Great post too!  06.21.12 - 12:38pm
Gosia - I like that you said 'shed the light'... :)  06.21.12 - 12:29pm
Ashley R - Incredibly helpful & perfect timing! I'll be shooting a wedding by myself for the first time in direct, overhead sun in a couple of weeks. I feel so much better having now read your post. Thanks Jasmine!!  06.21.12 - 12:19pm
Glitter Bird Tammy - Awesome shots! Hey do you carry multiple cameras or switch lenses while your shooting? You mentioned going from the 24 to 50 so made me wonder? Thanks!!  06.21.12 - 12:19pm
Amber - Fantastic tips! I always love your results. Thank you for sharing :)  06.21.12 - 11:31am
John Marion - Just for the fun of it, try this. I swore I would NEVER use a flash outdoors. In a similar emergency and only option, I popped a speedlight on the hotshoe, placed it on TTL and dropped the compensation down to -1. Took a light meter reading for the camera and set the camera on that setting in Manual mode (below 250th of a second) and boy was I surprised at the result. I couldn't even see the artificial light source at all like I was expecting. You have to play with the compensation factor up or down based on the distance to subject. But I use it now all the time just to add light in the eyes etc. in those tricky situations.   06.21.12 - 11:29am
Daniela Burzese - Thank you Soooo much for this. I just had a very bright, difficult engagement shoot and I was panicking, but now I feel more confident going to the next one. You rock!!   06.21.12 - 11:25am
Leah J. - Love this post, Jasmine! This is one of the things (bright, mid-day sun, and super hot temps) that makes me nervous during wedding day shoots.   06.21.12 - 11:06am
jewels martin - This is so good and it being long is what it took. Thanks so much for your time to write it and share.  06.21.12 - 10:54am
Michael Burton - So enjoy all your blogs/video/posts/cL events. Wish me luck as I utilise your experience on my first wedding shoot soon, oh, both of you can tag along as 2nd&3rd if you'd like??  06.21.12 - 10:51am
aleeya - I like the highlights from the sun. It gives it a fun, off the cuff casual look.  06.21.12 - 10:45am
Linsey Wilt - Beautiful as always!   06.21.12 - 10:44am
Fran Colonna - Where do you meter for the bride??? If you meter her face, the dress will be blown out so do you meter for the dress and average it somewhat???  06.21.12 - 10:35am
Tracy Lagaza - you educated me along with making me laugh ~ thanks!  06.21.12 - 10:29am
Meredith Sledge - Geeeez, Jasmine, you're a photography genius. You think so fast!!! This is great! This is also the one thing I worry about with wedding photography. The sun is evil sometimes.  06.21.12 - 10:26am
Kristen Driscoll - Exquisite! Thank you so much j* :) The photos came out wonderful and I love the one of the bride with the scattered bridesmaids :)  06.21.12 - 10:08am
Hilary - It is such a relief to know it still totally freaks you out when things don't go as planned. You handled it great though and the photos are still fabulous!  06.21.12 - 10:00am
liza head - Hi Jasmine! I'm Liza *waves *. I've never commented before, but have been lurking on your blog for a while. I really appreciated this post as this is something I had to deal with just two weeks ago - and yes, I TOTALLY panicked. I was at the venue 2 hours early looking for a shady spot and there was NOTHING. I ended up using a non-ideal spot which was super dark with a very bright background, but my hubby save the day with the reflector and it turned out alright :0). It's good to know that there isn't some magic trick I'm unaware of, and everyone has to deal with this from time to time. Thanks!  06.21.12 - 9:59am
Cat Melnyk - I had this issue 2 weekends ago. We ended up having to shoot at noon on the dot, on the beach! No building to work with sadly but made it work... I'm glad to see how someone else handled it too :D Great job.  06.21.12 - 9:58am
Virginia Smith - shooting in full sun is the hardest! I would love tips for shooting an outdoor wedding in full sun in the middle of the day (hope to never do that again, one of our first weddings - good thing she wanted vintage-y processing)  06.21.12 - 9:55am
Amanda Skiba - did not talk too much by any means! I loved this post, my business partner and I could have used it last week as we shot our first wedding last Saturday in the middle of the day at a church with practically no shade. And we had a family group shot of about 20. I am proud to say that we actually used a similar approach as you, confirming we are on the right track! What a challenging situation! Thanks for sharing your information, it is much appreciated!  06.21.12 - 9:53am
Liz Bedwell - As always, lots of great info here Jasmine! Thanks for sharing! xoxo  06.21.12 - 9:44am
sarah danaher - helpful, as always. thanks.  06.21.12 - 9:43am
Aurea - Jeez! I can't imagine how hard it would be to take pictures under the scorching heat of the sun but the pictures turn out really well! Bravo!  06.21.12 - 9:42am
Kristi Chappell - Your fabulous ;)  06.21.12 - 9:40am
JP - Jasmine, Love your work. I ran in to a few situations like yours and have to come up with different ways of taking pictures without it being to wash out. :)  06.21.12 - 9:39am
Joe Masucci - Given the curve ball you were sent, these results are amazing. Kudos.  06.21.12 - 9:26am
Sherry Rosenberger - Awesome! I'd love to know your settings on the picture of the bride with her 12 (wow!) bridesmaids since you usually shoot so wide open and obviously not everyone is in the same plane. Thanks!  06.21.12 - 9:21am
Laura Im - yay, Jasmine SUPER Star! you're awesome, thank you for sharing!  06.21.12 - 9:21am
jane - Your tips on natural reflectors are great Jasmine. I am particularly nervous when I need to shoot in full sun, so you've definitely helped to diffuse some of my nerves! Do you ever make JD hold over a translucent diffuser to soften sunlight for portraits? Thanks...again. You help us all be more *starry* :ox   06.21.12 - 9:20am
Susan - Beautiful! Camera settings?  06.21.12 - 9:18am
Carla Barnett - Great post! thank you!  06.21.12 - 9:16am
Haley Johnston - These photos are gorgeous! I would have never guessed your insides were mush! Way to stay fabulous! Thanks for the great advice about natural reflectors- I don't always remember to use those. :)  06.21.12 - 9:14am
Gavin Bearfield-Boyd - Fantastic looking shots all the same. Thats when you really earn your days wages. I particularly love the Last photo of the Bride and her maids of honour lined purposely in the comp.  06.21.12 - 9:09am
Isabelle Bouchard - I cannot thank you enough for your honesty. Sweating like a swine: I may have you beat! I usually wear a pink sweat wristband to wipe off the sweat as I shoot… Seriously though, your reminder about natural reflectors is just what I need for this weekend's wedding. Tx.  06.21.12 - 9:09am
Amelia - Hardly anyone is squinting in these did you manage that or did you just get lucky??  06.21.12 - 9:08am
angel - great post. thanks. xoxo.  06.21.12 - 9:07am
Ashley - Great tips! Thanks. :)  06.21.12 - 9:07am
Kelly - Thanks for sharing! So just to be sure, you did not use any additional light? no flash bounced by the natural reflectors? Just positioned them in an area where the sun would reflect off of the sidewalk, etc.? Thanks again!  06.21.12 - 9:06am
Jessica Vidmar Photography - me again...I have heard you mentioned your three styles of images you try to get of the groups in a wedding before. would love to see a post of three arrangements of one group and the differences that you feel make one editorial, one traditional and one casual. thanks!  06.21.12 - 9:05am
Davenna Trahan - Thanks for sharing..that bridesmaid picture with then standing everywhere..AMAZING...and thanks for being honest about the panic...nice to know you panic too!  06.21.12 - 9:05am
Jessica Vidmar Photography - Very nice and way to go under pressure and in a situation you were not planning on. your images are beautiful : )  06.21.12 - 9:01am
anthony barrera - thanks for the post jasmine. these photos came out great, especially given the circumstances, but besides the link about natural reflectors... a little more insight about how you achieved these photos in those conditions would be awesome... thank you!!!  06.21.12 - 8:40am
Brianna - Good morning. 12groomsmen?! Any of them single??  06.21.12 - 8:34am
The New Diplomat's Wife - Love the photo of the ringbearer -that's a documentary classic and it wouldn't have that same feel without the bright sun. It tells you exactly what's going on.  06.21.12 - 8:27am
Stephanie Stewart - Beautiful! I love them all! Thank you for showing that it is, indeed, possible to take amazing portraits in bright sun. Such a gorgeous venue...not to mention a stunning wedding party! You rock!  06.21.12 - 8:00am
ashley barnett - You hope this post "sheds light" - you were punny and didn't even realize it you clever minx! ;) That is a honkin bridal party!!! Great job fitting them all in and keeping it true to your style as well. :)  06.21.12 - 7:51am
Tara - I love the bridesmaids behind the bride in the hotel! awesome!   06.21.12 - 7:27am