Photographing Kids in Noon Day Sun

In this post Rachel Devine shares the back story behind this picture of her daughter – shot in noon sun.
It is rare that I get any significant amount of time alone with
either one of my twins. I love getting to know them as individuals. Most
of the time spent with my daughter, Clover, without her twin brother or
their older sister is spent somewhere in or near the children’s
hospital. Luckily yesterday it was just for a check up. When we were
walking back to the car, the sun was out and we had at least 2 more
hours left of free parking (Four hour free street parking is about as
rare as time spent with a twin alone!) so we took a detour into the huge
park that surrounds the hospital. 
I had my camera with me (as I almost always do) and even though it
was noon, my little model was in the mood for photos. When photographing
kids, you really need to be prepared to work in any light because the
best photographs happen on their schedule…not just during the gorgeous
magic hour before sunset. 
The key to shooting at noon is knowing how to modify the light. In
this case, the park had a lot of little groupings of leafy trees that
worked as open shade. There are a few things to watch out for when using
natural locations like this to flag overhead light. 
First issue is dappling. Make sure you scan the ground and your
subject’s face for hot spots where the sun has made it directly through
the break in some leaves. In this case, I had my daughter move just a
little bit to a spot where the light was all even as there was one beam
of sunlight hitting her cheek. 
The second is reflected colors. Sun hitting grass will bounce
unflattering shades of green up into your subject’s face. The spot I
found here had a whole patch of tan bark mulch directly in front of my
daughter where lay down to take the shot. If that is not the case where
you are, consider using a tan or off white towel or blanket. Spread in
front of your subject, it will bounce just enough light back for a bit
of fill without causing squints nor color cast. It is also a lot more
comfortable to lie on than mulch…trust me. 
A third thing to watch out for is white balance. I was taking the
easy road out here because we were just playing and did auto white
balance. Normally I would use a custom white balance setting to give all
images in one lighting situation a consistent color. Even if the white
balance that you set is a little bit off, with consistent color in the
set of images all taken in the same lighting conditions you can easily
batch correct them all in your editing program to save time. 
This shot was a bit on the cool side, but I added a quick warming fix
in Photoshop. In fact, the only other thing I did in Photoshop to this
photo was take out two spots of eczema from her forehead. All of my
daily life photography of my kids is shot in jpeg. I am not here to
debate RAW versus jpeg, At the risk of losing my (non-existent) secret
professional photographer membership card, I shoot mostly jpegs. When it
comes to my daily life photo blogging, I am a mom of three with limited
time. Since I can fine tune the Picture Controls on my D3 to produce
images that come straight out of the camera looking very close to how I
want them to look, I save time (that I don’t really have anyway) on post
processing. (The D3 has two memory card slots, so with clients, I shoot
RAW and jpeg…everyone relax, no one call the photo police!) 
Back to shooting at noon. The last thing that was an issue was
sunflare. Even though the area where my subject was seated was in shade,
I needed to flag the lens. When the light coming through the trees hit
my lens, I got that tell-tale line of bright circles diagonally across
my image that is sunflare. I did like the way the sun hit the tall grass
that was in between me and my daughter. With the wide aperture and long
focal length, the grasses turned into a warm streak in the foreground
and the shadow of my hand over the lens kept the sun from hitting the
If I had an assistant and needed to shoot a client at noon, I would
make sure to bring reflectors and my external flash for more control of
the light. But just like most everything as a busy mom, I made what I
had to work with work for me.