Photography Tip #1: Avoiding Hot Spots on the Skin When Shooting in Summer Sunlight

When you’re shooting in the sun, one of the the first things that you want to be aware of is the light. With people photography we are specifically interested in the evenness of the light. The slightest change in lighting can affect the way your family’s skin looks in the photo or even the way the viewer’s eye focuses on the image; i.e. which parts of the photo stand out and grab their attention. When you’re busy trying to make everybody smile and capture the perfect background it’s hard to remember to focus on lighting. When taking pictures, make the lighting your first priority before you even start to think about backgrounds and facial expressions.

When taking pictures in bright summer sunlight, a common challenge you’ll face is “hot spots”. Hot spots are the bright patches of sun on someone’s face. For example, the sun hits their forehead or their cheeks but the rest of the face is in dark shadows. The human eye will jump right to the light spot in the face. Everybody who will look at this picture will focus on the bright cheeks but that's not what I want you to focus on right? You want the focus on the eyes or the smile. When you avoid hot spots and place your subject in even lighting, the viewer’s attention can be better directed toward the main focus and not distracted by the hot spots. 

To avoid hotspots, it’s often just a matter of moving a few inches to the left or right. One step forward to get out of the dappled tree light is all it takes. Sometimes I see people completely turn and move the family like 20 feet and it’s very inconvenient and it’s not necessary. We’re talking inches. Like 6 inches back, six inches forward. Pretty cool right?

Here’s an example from the Weaver family’s photo shoot.
In the photo on the left, there are hotspots on Holly & Owen’s faces.
In the photo on the right, there are no hotspots on Ross & Owen’s faces.
I took these photos in the same physical location but I avoided the hotspots in the righthand photo by asking Ross & Owen to turn their bodies slightly and step forward a little bit. I basically just asked them to move around until I saw the hot spots disappear.