FAQ : Shooting in Bright Sun


Like 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…

Whew…so 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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  1. Tara

    June 21st, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I love the bridesmaids behind the bride in the hotel! awesome!

  2. ashley barnett

    June 21st, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    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. 🙂

  3. Stephanie Stewart

    June 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    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!

  4. The New Diplomat's Wife

    June 21st, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    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.

  5. Brianna

    June 21st, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Good morning. 12groomsmen?! Any of them single??

  6. anthony barrera

    June 21st, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    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!!!

  7. Jessica Vidmar Photography

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Very nice and way to go under pressure and in a situation you were not planning on. your images are beautiful : )

  8. Davenna Trahan

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    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!

  9. Jessica Vidmar Photography

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:05 pm

    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!

  10. Kelly

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    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!

  11. Ashley

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    Great tips! Thanks. 🙂

  12. angel

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    great post. thanks. xoxo.

  13. Amelia

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Hardly anyone is squinting in these photos…how did you manage that or did you just get lucky??

  14. Isabelle Bouchard

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    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.

  15. Gavin Bearfield-Boyd

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    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.

  16. Haley Johnston

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    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. 🙂

  17. Carla Barnett

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Great post! thank you!

  18. Susan

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Beautiful! Camera settings?

  19. jane

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:20 pm

    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

  20. Laura Im

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    yay, Jasmine SUPER Star! you’re awesome, thank you for sharing!

  21. Sherry Rosenberger

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:21 pm

    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!

  22. Joe Masucci

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Given the curve ball you were sent, these results are amazing. Kudos.

  23. JP

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:39 pm


    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. 🙂

  24. Kristi Chappell

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    Your fabulous 😉

  25. Aurea

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    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!

  26. sarah danaher

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    helpful, as always. thanks.

  27. Liz Bedwell

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:44 pm

    As always, lots of great info here Jasmine! Thanks for sharing! xoxo

  28. Amanda Skiba

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:53 pm

    Jasmine…you 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!

  29. Virginia Smith

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    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)

  30. Cat Melnyk

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    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 😀 Great job.

  31. liza head

    June 21st, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    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!

  32. Hilary

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    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!

  33. Kristen Driscoll

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Exquisite! Thank you so much j* 🙂 The photos came out wonderful and I love the one of the bride with the scattered bridesmaids 🙂

  34. Meredith Sledge

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    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.

  35. Tracy Lagaza

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    you educated me along with making me laugh ~ thanks!

  36. Fran Colonna

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    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???

  37. Linsey Wilt

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:44 pm

    Beautiful as always!

  38. aleeya

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:45 pm

    I like the highlights from the sun. It gives it a fun, off the cuff casual look.

  39. Michael Burton

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    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??

  40. jewels martin

    June 21st, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    This is so good and it being long is what it took. Thanks so much for your time to write it and share.

  41. Leah J.

    June 21st, 2012 at 6:06 pm

    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.

  42. Daniela Burzese

    June 21st, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    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!!

  43. John Marion

    June 21st, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    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.

  44. Amber

    June 21st, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    Fantastic tips! I always love your results.
    Thank you for sharing 🙂

  45. Glitter Bird Tammy

    June 21st, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    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!!

  46. Ashley R

    June 21st, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    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!!

  47. Gosia

    June 21st, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    I like that you said ‘shed the light’… 🙂

  48. Joe

    June 21st, 2012 at 7:38 pm

    Hahahahah, "sweating like a swine about to be baconized". That’s the best laugh I’ve had all day! Great post too!

  49. Aaron

    June 21st, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    Way to go J*!! You nailed it!!
    I’m totally going to introduce Baconize into my vovab for now on.

  50. Aaron

    June 21st, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    Way to go J*! You nailed it!!
    I’m totally going to introduce Baconize into my vocab from now on.

  51. nancypantsgirl

    June 21st, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    This is great! I love your tips!

  52. Denise Prichett

    June 21st, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    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?

  53. surrey wedding photographer

    June 22nd, 2012 at 1:32 am

    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

  54. Sam Llanes

    June 22nd, 2012 at 1:50 am

    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!

  55. Rebecca Henasey

    June 22nd, 2012 at 3:27 am

    Thanks for talking about using things like sidewalks as reflectors, never really thought about it, but it totally worked here!

  56. Becky B

    June 22nd, 2012 at 3:37 am

    Thanks for the tips! Would you mind posting what your camera settings were for each of these?

  57. Brianna

    June 22nd, 2012 at 3:40 am

    Everyone looks sun-kissed instead of drowning in shadows! You both are so talented while being such a great team. 🙂

  58. Marissa Nicole

    June 22nd, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    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".

  59. Becky Male

    June 22nd, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    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.

  60. Keir Chapple

    June 22nd, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    Forgive my ignorance, but what is the editorial pose?

  61. Yair

    June 23rd, 2012 at 12:54 am

    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!

  62. Danielle Bryan

    June 23rd, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    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!!!! 😉

  63. Barrie Wedding Photographer

    June 24th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    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!!

  64. Jennifer Rice

    June 25th, 2012 at 7:19 pm

    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! 🙁

  65. Rachael Hughes

    June 26th, 2012 at 3:29 am

    Great post Jasmine! I think as wedding photogs we can all relate. Great reminder about sidewalks reflecting natural light as well!

  66. Josh Baltzell

    June 26th, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    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.

  67. Ricki Ford

    June 27th, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    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!

  68. Marylou Pipes

    September 19th, 2012 at 5:11 am

    Love your posts…. You are my mentor Jasmine!

  69. Ashley Urke

    June 24th, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    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!