Shooting in the Sun – I CAN Be Done!

The number one question I get asked online and in photography workshops is “How can I take better pictures in the sun?”  The answer… reschedule those baseball games and family reunions to early morning or late afternoon so you can get softer light.  Just kidding. 🙂

When you have a choice it IS better to take pictures in the early morning or late afternoon to get more diffused sunlight.   It is even better to wait for an overcast day.  But we all know there are times you have to take the picture when the opportunity arises, in the direct sun, so here are some tips to get the best shots possible under sunny conditions.

1.  Find shade.

If you are able to move your subjects, look for a location with even shade.  The shade of a building, awning,  or trees works great!  Avoid spotty shade on faces and clothing like that produced by trees with thin leaf cover.  Shade is your best alternative when in the sun.

2. Turn the subject away from the sun.

The examples below were taken within a few minutes of each other to show how direction of light can affect your picture quality.  In one photo, the kids are facing the sun.  Notice the squints and harsh shadows on the faces.  A simple turn to place the subjects’ backs to the sun results in a much more pleasing picture.  You will also want to set your exposure to the spot or center point metering mode and meter on the face (or portion of the photo that is most important).  Directions for how to set your camera’s light metering mode can be found in your camera’s instruction manual.   You will notice that the sky is overexposed (too white) in the second picture as a result of spot metering.  If the sky’s details were important to the picture, you can combine tips 2 and 3 to get correctly exposed faces and sky.sunny photography tips

3. Add light.

It seems weird to add light in the bright sunshine, but that is often exactly what you need.  YOU must control the light which sometimes means  overpowering the sun.  In the example below the pictures were taken seconds apart.  The first picture was without flash causing the subject’s face to be a little too dark.  A flash highlights the important part of the picture, and balances the light.  These photos were taken at an outdoor wedding reception.  Finding shade and turning the subject were not options so adding light was the best way to capture the moment.

Use flash in the sun

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