How To Deal With Direct Sunlight Photography

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Don’t be put off photographing in bright sunlight

Light is at the centre of every photo. Without light there can be no photo, and so photographers need to discover ways to use, manipulate, create or block the light. Working with likewise much light is every bit much of a challenge every bit working with besides niggling lite.


Photographing in bright sunlight can yield stunning results, if you know the tricks of harsh sunlight photography.

Directly sunlight often feels like also much low-cal.


Notwithstanding, when information technology’s now or never and yous can’t choose a amend time to photograph, but the light is hard, high in the sky and casting horrible shadows, you can however get great photos.

You merely have to recall a little harder, maybe wait around at your options and get a petty more creative.


Farther reading: How to utilize the sunny 16 rule for quick exposure settings outdoors

This cheatsheet will help you with camera settings for photographing in bright sunlight…

Ideally, when photographing outdoors, we’d just stick to the best times of day, the gold 60 minutes, or the blue hour, and exist happy with that. Only if you’re:


  • Photographing a wedding ceremony, you generally don’t get a say in when the happy couple emerge from the church
  • On holiday somewhere, you can’t not visit the attractions, just because it’s a brilliant sunny solar day
  • What most a beach vacation? You can’t not photograph the kids for nigh of the solar day, just because the light isn’t perfect for you

Luckily, if you’re on safari in Africa, most wildlife would agree with you that the start and end of the mean solar day are the best times to be out and nearly. The African sun is strong and you might not be used to photographing in harsh direct sunlight. (I had the contrary trouble – I struggled to adjust to the United kingdom’southward very soft light when I kickoff moved here from South Africa.)

Farther reading:

Golden hour photography – when is information technology and why is it so amazing?

Blue 60 minutes photography tips and tricks for artistic photos


vii tips for outdoor photography in bright sunlight

These tips will help you embrace photographing at any time of day. The first three tips are well-nigh avoiding photographing in hard calorie-free. Tips 4 – vii are about embracing photographing in bright sunlight and using it to your advantage.

  1. Find shade
  2. Use doorways
  3. Create shade
  4. Reflect the light
  5. Create some calorie-free
  6. Shoot into the sunday
  7. Apply the angle of the light

ane. Find shade on bright sunny days

I know – a chip obvious, but non all shade is created equal.

Your ideal shade is solid shade from a building or a tree with thick foliage, not the dappled kind of shade that you tin can get nether a not and then leafy tree. While dappled lite is bully for camouflage, it’south non a photographer’southward friend as your field of study will be patchy.

If you position your subjects under a tree, confront them out to the light, with the tree behind them. This is called open shade… because it’s open. Remember, light is still striking the scene, fifty-fifty if it has been diffused by the tree, and the direction of the light still makes a difference.


Further reading: Open shade photography the right way – avoid rookie mistakes

Man with harsh shadows caused by direct sunlight

These photos were taken xxx seconds autonomously at xi.26 on a very sunny day. Higher up, the bright sunlight made him screw up his eyes and it cast the harsh shadows beyond his confront.

Beneath, he moved a meter back into the shade of the wooden shelter, so no harsh shadows. Withal, I similar the texture of the wood brought out by the direct sunlight skimming across information technology in the higher up photograph. It’s great for wood, but non faces.


Man in open shade on a sunny day

2. Use doorways when the sun is harsh

This doesn’t have to be an actual doorway to a house. The entrance to a tunnel, an entrance, but inside a barn door, or even inside a car all work really well for photography. Basically, anywhere that has a roof overhead, similar in the photograph above.

Indirect light spilling in from outside will illuminate your subject area beautifully. I say indirect, because if sunlight is pouring into the doorway and onto your discipline, the light will still exist harsh. If, however, the doorway is in shade, the lite that filters in volition be soft and perfect for portraiture.

Position your subject just inside the doorway facing out and photograph them from the outside. This is some other case of open shade. The advantage of doing this is that you cut out the vivid sunlight coming from directly in a higher place them, so they won’t have “racoon eyes”.


3. Create your ain shade

For the times that you don’t have a convenient building or tree on a bright sunny day, try to create shade.

If you’re on the beach with surfboards, y’all could comprise the surfboards into the shot in a way that creates shade. For example, if your subject area holds a surfboard above their head information technology creates a handy bit of shade over their face. A embankment umbrella would be great too – just exist aware of the colors as they volition reverberate onto your bailiwick.

Or yous could bring a foldable diffuser with you lot so that you can cake the sunlight from striking your subject field directly, which is what I do.

Further reading on diffusers and reflectors


4. Reverberate the sunlight

Information technology’s generally ameliorate for the sun to exist behind your subject, especially on brilliant sunny days, so that:

  • They don’t screw up their optics
  • There aren’t any harsh shadows on their faces

So considering the light is backside them, you need to observe a way to lite their faces, which is why you lot need a reflector.

Although using an actual reflector is the nearly obvious style to reflect light coming from behind your subject field, information technology’south not the but way. You lot could:

  • Use a white canvas
  • Or cardboard
  • Or find objects in the environment that reflect light.

For example, look for sunlit white walls to use every bit a reflector. The sunlight bouncing off the wall volition be soft and even. Make sure it’s a white wall, as the colour of the wall will also exist reflected. A green wall, for case, volition cast a green color over your field of study, making them look sick.

Wet footing reflects low-cal back very well. Glass surfaces are besides great. Anything shiny is great for reflecting light, but exist aware that the shinier the surface, the harsher the light and therefore the harsher the shadows will be.


Further reading: How to apply a reflector properly and why you actually need one

Man against a beach hut shade on a sunny day

Above, we stood between 2 beach huts. The white wall of the embankment hut behind me reflected back into his face and reduced the shadows.

Below, even though we were in the open up shade of a edifice, one side of his face is brighter than the other. That’s considering the direction of calorie-free was from camera left (see point 1).

Man photographed in the shade on a sunny day


5. Create some light

Using flash to fill in the shadows will aid to take care of those “racoon centre” shadows under the eye acquired by sunlight overhead.

The confetti throw shot at a wedding is a perfect example of when to use on photographic camera flash to make full in shadows. Yous tin’t exactly arrange the bride and groom facing a user-friendly white wall and you certainly tin’t stand in that location with a reflector in front of them.

Further reading:

Using fill up lite in photography – essentials you demand to know

Getting started with off camera flash



6. Shoot into the sun

Although it’s not the best time of 24-hour interval for photographing outdoors, as long as it’southward xxx minutes either side of midday, you’ll be able to turn your bailiwick away from the sun then that their face is in shadow. It’s helpful for them as that they don’t accept to strain their eyes, but actually it’s even more helpful for you!

This manner you lot won’t have harsh shadows travelling from their olfactory organ across their face or from their eyebrows downwardly.

Bonus tip
– make sure you use a lens hood, but also try to shade the front end of your lens so that yous don’t end up with unwanted lens flare or a cloudy image from the sun hitting your lens. Even better if you tin position yourself in a patch of shade or accept a helper block the sun from hitting your lens.

When you shoot into the sun, colors will be faded and the sky in particular will be blown out. If yous’re okay with a blown out sky, great. If non, find means to exclude the sky from your image – look for trees or buildings, or shoot on the slope of a hill to block out the sky.

Likewise, use a reflector to bounce low-cal back into your subject when photographing in bright sunlight.


Further reading:
What is the purpose of a lens hood?

vii. Utilise the angle of the sun when photographing in vivid sunlight

Lastly, embrace the vivid sunlight. Some subjects look corking in harsh sunlight. It’s just a matter of being aware of where the sun is and what shadows are existence created past the angle of the sun, then adjusting your subject’s position accordingly.

If you lot know how to use portrait lighting patterns, only pretend the sun is a giant studio light and go for it.

Farther reading: 5 portrait lighting patterns you lot need to know

If you’re photographing a mural or compages, it might exist that textures are highlighted past the angle of the sun, which would be corking.


If the sun is backside you, the scene’s colors will be more than saturated.

Further reading in our direction of light serial:

1. Back light

2. Side light

3. Front calorie-free



Shooting into the light on a sunny day

These photos were taken at 12.24 and 12.42. The starting time I shot into the sunday and for the second shot she simply turned the other way to face into the sunday. In both photos I used the building to block out the heaven.

Using direct sunlight for portraiture

6 important things to retrieve on sunny days…

1.
ISO
– keep it low at say 100

Farther reading: The exposure triangle – what role does ISO play?



two.
White Balance
– gear up it to sunny

Further reading: What is white rest and does it matter?

3.
Metering
– it’south best to employ spot metering and meter off the expanse you lot want correctly exposed, especially if you lot’re shooting into the sunday. If you’re photographing a person, meter off their cheek then that their skin is correctly exposed.

Further reading:

When to utilize spot metering?



Metering modes and how exposure metering works

4.
Shadow
– make certain your shadow isn’t in the shot. Information technology may seem obvious, simply yous’d exist surprised how easily this tin can exist overlooked.

5. Shoot in
manual mode or use exposure bounty
– especially if you’re shooting into the lite as the tricky lighting conditions volition fool your camera’due south metering system. If the sunday is backside you, the camera volition observe it easier to meter, unless you’re on a beach or in the snow. And so all that light billowy around will confuse it.

Further reading: How and when to use exposure compensation

6.
Lens hood
– Make certain y’all use a lens hood. Information technology will help to block the low-cal from striking the front of your lens and creating flare. I’d actually advise always using a lens hood, fifty-fifty if it’s just to protect the front of your lens from accidental harm. My lenses would definitely take picked up a few scratches over the years without lens hoods.


Further reading: What is the purpose of a lens hood?

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