Beaches are a common location choice for photo shoots. They’re beautiful, accessible, and offer plenty of sunlight. Sometimes, a little too much sunlight.

In locations like this, many photographers default to dragging their expensive studio lights out on location in an attempt to overpower the sun. However, modifying available light is a much more cost effective and simple solution. Battling harsh sunlight without powerful strobes can seem a bit daunting, but there are simple techniques that don’t involve high-speed sync or pricey lights. As commercial photographer Lou Freeman demonstrates here, a simple diffuser and reflector can turn overwhelming sunlight into a soft and flattering source for beach portraits.

Location for Beach Portraits

Shooting mid-day in sunny Florida, Lou knows she’ll need a large diffuser to soften the harsh light that will be hitting her subject. She mounts a 8x8-foot Scrim Jim Cine frame with a full-stop diffusion fabric over the area that she will be photographing. This large diffuser gives Lou the freedom to vary positions and angels without needing to frequently reposition her scrim. Large scrim frames like this are best mounted with two light stands, pro grip equipment, and sand bags.


Just as she used the sun to create an overhead fill light, Lou modifies the sun to create a key light. She places a second silver bounce fabric. This scrim bounces evenly-dispersed sunlight back onto her subject to create glamorous highlights.

For her beauty shots, Lou also uses the sun to fill in shadows from below her subject. She places a 40-inch collapsible sunlight reflector just underneath her subject for a little added dimension.

Beach Portraits by Lou Freeman (1)

Lighting Gear in Action

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