How to Take Birthday Photos in Harsh Sunlight Outdoors

Claire's Blog Posts

July 3, 2021

Many of us know that the best photos are taken either early morning or late afternoon. The beautiful soft light during these times, gently fill the slight dips and slopes of our faces, giving us a beautiful filtered youthful glow. 

But let’s be real. 

Kids birthday parties are rarely held early morning nor late afternoon. Birthday parties are held when little ones are most likely to feel happy – right in the middle of the day. 

When I hear the words “midday party”, I pray that it will be indoors, or that there will be outdoor shelter. Or that it will be an overcast day. Or that the clouds will simply align themselves in the perfect location, at the exact right moments just for me. So that there is opportunity for beautiful indirect light.  

This particular weekend, I’m photographing an outdoor midday party. The clear blue sky is beautiful – so bright & sunny. The Winter air is crisp, but the midday sun is streaming relentlessly and directly from above. 

This party is going to be action packed. Emma the Yellow Wiggles is coming.

The animal petting zoo is already set up. There is a promise of colourful balloons, bubbles, and face-painting. Many little friends will be running freely from activity to activity in the open backyard.  

To achieve nice photography, in direct midday sunlight, there’s a couple of major things to consider.  

Dark Circles Under The Eyes

When sunlight hits our eyebrows from straight above, it casts a harsh shadow over our eye sockets. This shows up in photos as dark heavy circles under our eyes. It isn’t an ideal look for adults and even less so for children. These dark circles require post-processing. There is no getting around it. 

My advice is to avoid close-up photos in the midday sun. Stick to full length shots, group shots or photos of the activities. 

Hot spots

Hot spots. Hot spots. So many hot spots. Hot spots are those harsh, random “patches” of sunlight. In photos, they show up as bright various shaped patches on our faces and bodies. They are unavoidable during the middle of a sunny day. 

My advice is to avoid hot spots on the FACES of your subjects as much as humanly possible. It’s a much better photo when faces are just one shade and looking more even-toned. 

How do we achieve this, during an action packed open air adventure, in the middle of a sunny day? This is the secret to how I photographed this entire birthday party.

I faced the sun. And photographed the children TURNED AWAY from the sun. Yes that’s it!

Go on, give it a try! 

Let me know if it’s a game changer for you. 

Claire x

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