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Avoid uneven portrait lighting under trees: Fix the Pix, Episode 9

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Mason Resnick is the editor of the Adorama Learning Center and a lifetime photography enthusiast.

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Avoid uneven portrait lighting under trees: Fix the Pix, Episode 9

Why great portraits aren’t made in the uneven shade

While taking pictures in open shade is generally a good thing, there’s an exception to this rule when you’re under the shade of a big, leafy tree and the sun light peaks through here and there.


Today’s Fix the Pix was photographed with a Canon Powershot SX120.

Mottled shade—where sun streams through breaks between leaves—can play havoc with casual portrait shots. If the sun is above or slightly behind you, some faces may be in full or partial sun, while some are in the shade. As a result, parts of faces may be way too bright or too dark. The background, also subject to uneven lighting, can become a distracting mess.

Be aware of your light source. If the sun is filtering unevenly though the trees, relocate to someplace that is more evenly lit.

Fix me! Shot under the not-so-even shade of a big Maple, this image is dappled with large areas of light and dark. It’s not very easy on the eyes.

Fixed! We moved so the sun was completely blocked by the side of the building that you can see on the right side of the top shot. While there’s still some bright areas in the background, her face is evenly lit, so this shot’s an improvement.

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