I recently did a family / maternity photo shoot at the Green Springs Gardens, in Alexandria, VA. It was around 4 pm, although the skies were clear and sun was very harsh. I decided to try out my new Neewer 24 x 24 inch softbox, and I was pretty surprised with the results. I placed the softbox on the opposite side of the direction of the sun to make sure my subjects were lighten from both sides. I got a nice soft light with very soft shadows if any. I found that softbox yields better results than using direct flash as you get much better quality of light, even when shooting in a shade. The only thing you need to watch for is the wind, and your softbox may fall over. You can either have assistant holding it or put some sandbags on your stand to hold it down.
Check out my Newborn & Maternity Gallery by clicking on Tomas Hric Photography to see some of my examples from my photo shoots.