If you are a portrait session photographer you can avoid shooting in harsh light by only shooting at sunset time. If you are a wedding photographer then you can really never avoid it. You will likely do detail shots, ceremonies, first looks, family photos, bridal party photos and sometimes even couple portraits in harsh light.
My advice for weddings:
For family photos, couples portraits, bridal party, details and first looks try to find shade whenever possible so that your skin tones will come out looking more true to real life and not blown out. I wanted to state that because I am all about embracing harsh light if you have to, but if you do not have to I prefer those true to life skin tones. If need to embrace harsh light then this blog post will teach you the tips and tricks how to on that.
For wedding ceremonies you cannot control usually anything about it, unless it is an elopement, in which I do encourage couples to do an exact time of day and show them where to stand for light. Sometimes you are dealing with crazy shadows, spotty light or full on harsh light. All of those can be so hard to shoot. So here will be some tips on how to embrace harsh light for ceremonies.
Ceremonies in harsh light:
Example below of a couple:
Bridal party and family photos in harsh light:
Usually if I am shooting couple photos in harsh light it is because we have an extra couple min after the first look. I know I can have fun with it since we have time for sunset photos later in the day usually. If this is the case and it is not your only time with them than fully embrace it. Have them stand with their faces always facing the sun and play around with shadows on their face. Have them use props to cast shadows on their faces, have them kiss with cool shadow casts, or just have them full on in the sun closing eyes and opening right when you are about to click for some cool kid like photos staring at my camera. Movement poses in harsh light is hard due to the sun’s placement. However, if you have them move have them aim their movement walking towards the sunlight at a diagonal angle usually. Watch for their shadows on their faces and if necessary fix a bit in post with exposure and shadow brush. Examples below of fully lite, harsh light couple photos.