What is dappling? And how you can avoid it.

written by Beckie of beckiegkengle.com

dappling: verb; to produce numerous, usually cloudy and rounded, spots or patches of a color or shade different from their background –Merriam-webster.com

In photography, “dappling” refers to the spots or patches of light that fall onto your subject. Usually caused by the sun peeking through the tree leaves. Dappling is distracting in an image (especially when on your subject’s face) and also very hard to correct in post.

There are some easy ways to avoid dappling. Try to find a location where the open shade is clean and free of random bits of light poking through. If that isn’t possible, you can use a diffuser above your subject to block that dappling light from falling onto your subject (you may need an assistant for this).

In the image on the left, I chose a location that at first glance looked great, until I placed my subject under the tree. You can see where the sun peeking through is leaving spots on her arm, face, and chest. It is distracting and creates really bright spots (called hot spots) on her skin. In the image on the right, you see that we moved a few feet away to a different spot and it made a huge difference. There is a nice, even light on her without having the dappling on her skin. The overall tone of the image is even better. It’s warmer and more contrasting than the image with the dappling.


So pay attention to your surroundings when choosing a location for your sessions. If you head for a spot under a tree, just be watchful for the dappling. And if you encounter it, use your diffuser or just move your subject slightly to avoid it.

Thank you for reading! If you enjoyed my post, and would like to follow my photography, feel free to head over to my blog, or find me on Facebook!

About Beckie

I'm Beckie, a fun, think-outside-the-box mama to 2 miracle children.
I love all things photography, and being able to share in this art with others!


  1. I just shot a session and got home to discover that I had dappling all over all of the images from the session. That big yellow tree was pretty, but I never noticed the light it was casting on my clients! I’m so glad you posted this article. It will serve as a great reminder going forward!

  2. Hi Beckie – one of my favorite shots from a wedding had terrible hot spots all over and took so much time and effort to correct. I’m so conscious of this now, and glad that you posted this to help us remember to consider all of the elements!!

  3. Great reminder, even for an amateur as myself. Shooting my nephew (senior pics) at the park next week.

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