By Annie Tao

Just like in Real Estate, Photography is about location, location, location. Well, sort of. It’s not as much the beauty of a location, but rather, the quality of the light at a location.

Case in point, my shoot this past weekend was of a lovely family in a seemingly lovely location. It was a small, narrow park that wrapped around a large lake. Sounds pretty, but the light was not desirable for portraits. Imagine clear skies and a sun that was as bright as can be! There weren’t structures or large trees to provide shade.

Why is this bad? Direct sunlight on clear, bright days means high contrast, squinting subjects, and unflattering shadows.

Can you still make this work? Certainly, but the kinds of shots are not as varied because of the location.

[FYI: For outdoor lifestyle sessions, I shoot entirely in natural light. This is my style of shooting. This article does not apply if you use lighting equipment or accessories outside.]

Since my clients chose the location for sentimental reasons, it was worth starting
there. Then we got in our cars to find a different location… one that has objects to diffuse the sunlight as well as add interest to the images.

First Location

Even from this one image, you can tell that it is a pretty location, but you can see that the trees are thin and the sunlight is super bright.

Annie Tao Photography San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle photography family in the bright sun LOCATION ONE

Second Location

These images are examples of what can be achievable with the right light and location.

Annie Tao Photography San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle photography mom with her adult daughters

Annie Tao Photography San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle photography young adult sitting on rock

Annie Tao Photography San Francisco Bay Area lifestyle photography parents dancing while their children watch on a bench

Annie Tao Photography San Francisco Bay Area family photography family against a barn with trees and sunflare

Photography Tip:

The key to finding the perfect location for outdoor portraits isn’t to find one that has the prettiest elements, but rather, one that has objects that provide shade when there is bright sun.

That doesn’t mean you have to shoot in the shade the entire time… or even at all!

Having these objects around will give you diversity in backdrops as well as a way to diffuse the harsh light on clear days.

Annie Tao is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit for more tips or inspiration and stay connected with Annie at