Three Types of Light to Avoid When Shooting Outdoors

You have finally figure out how to work your camera and you are pumped to start shooting but your photos aren’t turning out how you want them to! Your settings seem to be correct but you have no idea what to do when it comes to light. Here are three different types of light you should avoid shooting when you are outdoors photographing.


This type of light is exactly how it sounds. When you have your subject in direct, harsh light, the highlights become intense and the shadows are dramatic and dark. This typically happens when the sun is high and directly overhead. If you HAVE to shoot during this time of day, try to find some open shade. If you are forced to shoot at this time, have the sun behind your subject and exposure for the brightest part of your subject. In this photo, I should have exposed for the left side of his face (I was just as upset as he was that I messed it up!)

three types of light to avoid when shooting outdoors - harsh direct light


This type of light happens when you are out shooting when the sun is high in the sky and you are trying to get some shade but the sun is coming through the trees. It looks just as it sounds, harsh spots of light hitting your subject. Obviously the best way to avoid this type of light is to avoid an area like this all together but if you can’t find any open shade or direct shade then at least try to have the sun behind your subjects!

three types of light to avoid when shooting outdoors - spotty light


Split light is when your subject is in shade but in the foreground or background you have an area of bright light. Our eyes are automatically drawn to the area of bright light first and therefore take away from the subject in the photo. If you are looking through the viewfinder in your camera and notice this, try moving to a different angle to remove the bright area from your view. The below photo could also be used as an example of harsh direct light. In this photo, the couple are in the sun and then split light is the shade to the left. At lease with this photo, our eyes go to the couple because they are in the brighter portion of the photo.

three types of light to avoid when shooting outdoors - split light

This photo, my son is enjoying his yogurt drink in the shade but the lefthand side of the photo is brighter which makes my eyes want to go there instead at him and all his cuteness! This could have been avoided if I walked to my left slightly and changed my angle.

three types of light to avoid when shooting outdoors - split light

These three types of light to avoid when photographing outdoors can be tricky when you are stuck shooting midday. The best advice that I can give if you are forced to photograph in the midday sun, try to place your subject in a shaded area with the sun at their back. Move yourself around to see if you can get better angles to avoid the split lighting.

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Keep snappin’,