Even beginner photographers know that shooting in direct sunlight most likely results in terrible photos. Harsh shadows, bright spots, contrasty. Direct sunlight is probably the worst light you can deal with - but what if this is the only light at your disposal at the moment?
Suppose you are trying to shoot some food photography at a Fourth of July picnic and you just have to capture that delicious barbeque chicken hot off the grill and blazing high noon sunlight is all you have to work with?
Well you only have a few options. You can try to bounce some sunlight into the shadows using white poster board or reflectors or shoot in the shade and deal with the lack of highlights and shadow. OR you can shoot in the direct sun but modify the light with a scrim or diffuser.
Diffusers soften the light and nearly eliminate the shadows. Its like bringing a portable cloud to the photo shoot. Check out the difference in these photographs of pears taken in direct sunlight vs. diffused light.
Unprocessed RAW images taken directly out of my Canon EOS 6D with a 50mm macro lens showing a pear in direct sunlight vs. under the diffused light.
Notice how the diffuser material spreads out the light and makes it less directional. The shadow areas are less harsh and the light is soft. It's like turning the sun into a light box.
To use the diffuser you want to hold the panel as close to the subject as possible. In the above pear shot the diffuser was resting on the camera lens, just out of the shot. The effects of the diffuser decreases as the diffuser moves away from the subject to the point that it just becomes a shading device, blocking the sun just as any object would. So remember to keep the diffuser as close to the subject as possible.
These diffusers are effective, fold up small for easy carrying and are very inexpensive. The one I used here cost me less than $15 (including free shipping with Amazon Prime) and included a silver and gold reflector as well as a carrying case. It folds up small enough to carry on a hike.
If you want to improve your photography of food, nature or portraits, you have to have one or several of these types of diffusers handy.
Etekcity 5 in 1 portable Round Collapsible Multi Disc Photography studio Photo Camera Lightning Reflector/Diffuser Kit camera equipment - 24in x 36 in" (60cm x 90cm) when opened. great for photo shoots and taking pictures in accurate lighting
For more examples of my food photography, check out my RF Stock site - Dogford Studios at www.dogfordstudios.com, part of the Symbiostock Network of independent photographers and artists selling images direct to image buyers.