There are a few ways to address harsh natural lighting when you're outdoors, but I'm going to stick to my favorite method. But first, let's back up. When you shoot outdoors with a professional photographer, they do their best to convince you that sunset is the best time for your shoot—and it is! The harsh rays of the sun are softened and diffused by things like pollution (ahem, Los Angeles...if it helps, we can call it "atmosphere") by the end of the day or landscapes and tall city buildings. Soft light also happens during sunrise, but it's much easier to schedule a shoot for the end of the day, when everyone is prepped with hair and makeup, then for the beginning, when we look a little tired.
Sometimes, though, scheduling just doesn't work out and we're forced outside at noon—when the sun is right above our heads with no diffusion, casting harsh shadow and forcing squinty eyes.
Luckily, we have a saving grace: shade! Find it. Anywhere you can. Usually there are trees around to give you a bit of shelter from the sun. You'll still have lovely, even lighting in photos with no shadows on the face and pretty smiles instead of painful squints. A word of caution: Watch out for speckled lighting under trees. When you pick a shady spot, make sure it's all shade and there aren't bits of light poking through. Otherwise you'll have spots of light and dark across your subjects' faces.
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