Softening Harsh Sunlight for Natural Light Fashion Photography

Shooting out in the desert in the middle of the day is difficult as the bright sunlight causes harsh, unflattering shadows. But there are a few tricks you can try to soften the shadows and produce a far more flattering light.

Using an overhead scrim to diffuse the harsh sunlight, Karl creates a series of images that have a lovely soft light, similar to that from a softbox. This simple accessory is a budget-friendly alternative to studio lighting – one that softens the light and helps achieve wonderfully flattering light.

In this class:

  • Photographing people using natural light
  • Tips for photographing in midday sun
  • How to soften harsh sunlight for photography
  • Composition techniques for photographing people

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl
    Just out of interest, is there a home made hack or alternative solution that you have used in the past that could be used as an outside diffuser?
    I photograph for a hobby so I don’t want to buy things that I am not going to use very often. But I do like making things and getting creative to solve problems.

        1. Hi Andrew, yes I have done in the past. The other thing you can do though is find some clip together poles to make a frame, like some of those extension handles for brooms etc and some I’ve seen have plastic corner fixings that fit inside the pole so you can make a rectangular frame but it packs down into a bag. Then take your material and stretch it over the frame and clip it with those strong plastic clamps.

          1. I will have a look at that, thanks Karl. After your first reply my mind was thinking along something collapsible and very portable I could make.

            Absolutely love this platform and all the work yourself and the team do. Beats Netflix handsdown!

  2. In the video, the scrim left a harsh rectangular shadow on the ground. did you edit that out in post? How manageable would the scrim be in wind?

    Thanks! Love the videos!

    1. Hi thank you and glad you are enjoying the videos! The final images appear at around 3:30 and you will notice that the ground is not in the shot or in one of the others where it is then the ground is disguised or covered by foreground shrubs. In windy conditions it is too difficult to use a scrim like this as it takes of like a kite!

  3. This video has inspired me to sell my flashes and buy a scrim: Better than HSS, at any time you can take photos, and it’s cheap. Hummmmm interesting. Thank you, Thank you very much Karl.

    1. Hi, well you lose 1.5 stops of light and if you’re shooting wide angle and polarize a blue sky only half of it might end up polarizing. Also often you want reflections off leaves and water so you don’t always want to eliminate them. It’s better to shoot what you can see and then decide if you need a polarizer to improve anything. Just get practise in using one so you know what they are capable of.

    1. Hi, I think I said it was a polariser. A Polariser would deepen up the blue sky and reduce polarised reflected light which reduces the ‘harsh’ appearence.

    1. Hi not much as all and ND does is reduce the exposure like a pair of sunglasses. A polariser also reduces the exposure by about 1.5 stops and will remove reflected glares of shrubs bushes, some skin and intensify the sky but it won’t take away the harsh look of the light in the same way that the diffuser is.

    1. Thanks for the offer David but I’m sure my surfing skills would be pretty rubbish as I’ve never tried it. Tim our cameraman is a big surf fan so I’m sure he’d be up for it we head out that way again. If you’ve got scuba diving on the list i’ll be there! πŸ™‚

  4. Karl, if shooting out when its bright like that what kind of polarizer do you suggest? Thanks in advance!

  5. Hi Karl,

    I noticed the comment above this one now is in Spanish and has not been answered yet. To translate, he is asking :”why exactly did you use a polarizing filter for this session? Greetings and good job friend. ”

    Am I correct to think it’s to darken the over exposed sky and bring in some detail as you are exposing for the dark subject in front which is the model?

    1. Thank you for the translation Jacques, I believe it was explained in the video but it was to make the foliage richer in colour and the sky bluer.

  6. Karl,
    That diffusion paper that comes on the roll could not be used like this sun-swatter? I take it that the roll paper would not stand up to the wind etc.?


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