First, I’d like to say that I’m always learning and refining my technique. I’m always seeking out photographers that I admire to see what I can do and learn to better my own photography. With that being said, I’m not perfect and I make mistakes. These tips are merely notes I’ve taken over the years. Things I’ve come to realize and learn from others that make a photograph work or not. So, these are just some of my own personal tips I have to offer from my own journey and experience with photography. If they can help, you YAY!!! If you didn’t find these helpful, skip this tip and move onto the next one. :)
A photographer’s best friend and worst enemy can be light. You just have to know how to deal with the circumstances you’re provided. So, this week’s tip is…
This takes time. I am still learning a lot about light and lighting situations. You may hear from folks that the sun can be a photographer’s mortal enemy — well, direct sunlight. To be honest, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can use the sunlight to create really amazing gorgeous images. There are still a few techniques I’m really trying to master with the addition of flashes and such, but if I’m shooting without any light modifiers or anything, I can still get by in direct sunlight. Does it make me uncomfortable to shoot in direct sunlight? You bet cha. It’s not my ideal shooting situation, but I can have a good time and make it work.
So, it’s a little embarrassing, but I’m going have to dig through my “outtakes” in my archives to share with you some of my own mistakes! So…let’s begin!
So, what’s so bad about shooting in direct sun????
Well, there are several things that make shooting in direct sunlight difficult. when you’re photographing people, you get the squint affect. When people in the sun or looking toward the sun, they start squinting and this doesn’t make for a great photo.
This fella is a handsome man (my friend’s hubby at their vow renewal), but I didn’t do him any justice by placing him head on into the sun. You can’t see his eyes and he’s squinting. Luckily, his shirt isn’t completely blown out which can happen as well. Another issue you can have is that the skin can be completely overexposed.
Another thing that happens is you get harsh shadows that aren’t flattering to your subject. I’ve got proof that I’ve made this mistake too!
This was not a strong choice in the placement of my subjects. I have funky harsh shadows and overexposed skin/blown highlights. I wanted to capture a moment, but I distracted from the moment with poor lighting. Imagine if the subjects were turned around and facing the camera. Their faces would be completely blown out. Some shadows you get when the sun is right above someone is the raccoon eye effect. They get these dark shadows under their eyes that doesn’t do your subject any justice. So, you really have to watch for the position of the sun in relation to your subjects.
When should I shoot?
The sun is strongest at around 12-3 or 4 depending on the time of year and region you live in. Sometimes you can’t avoid the sun! Sometimes Suzie Q’s softball game has to be at 2:00 or little Johnny’s soccer game starts at 12:00. What then??? What should you do? Well, there are several things you can do. The easiest thing for me is to FIND SOME SHADE!! :). If that’s not an option, just be mindful of the position of the sun and what effects it has on your subject. If it’s your child’s soccer game, maybe find a different seat/angle to shoot from if the sun is going to be a big issue. I don’t use modifiers or anything like that too often. Sometimes I will diffuse the light, but honestly, I only really do that when I’m indoors and light is coming through a window.
If the sun is behind your subject and your camera is on automatic, your flash will likely go off. This happens because the camera is noticing that the subject is so dark and we need a little pop of light. You can test this out, buy placing a subject in front of you with the sun behind them. You can see that their faces are darker. Once you get comfortable outside of shooting automatic, you can play a little with camera settings to provide a little more light to the subject. In my Intro to DSLR workshop we discuss how we can adjust our cameras to overcome some lighting issues. The other thing to consider is that the flash probably won’t make it to the soccer field if you’re shoot from the bleachers — well, I guess it depends where on the bleachers..:). So, you may have to move or make some camera adjustments. In my Intro to DSLR workshop we discuss how we can adjust our cameras to overcome some lighting issues.
Here is an example where you can see where having the light source in the back looks like form a side angle.
This image doesn’t bother me only because I’m shooting from the side. I can still make out their faces. I just like that it shows the lake and the beach. :). But you can gather from this image that if you were standing in front of the subjects they would definitely be darker. So, try moving around your subject. You may find a perspective with the light that you can work with.
Another one image from when I first started. I really like the Weeping Willow Trees, so I had to get this gorgeous couple underneath one. The sun was to camera right. They were sort of in the shade, but not really. Notice the gentleman’s face. Sun directly in his eyes – sorry! :). We probably could have and should have rotated them a little. Another thing that could have been a problem is a shadow in his face or if her face was too dark. Sometimes shooting in the sun causes these issues. Since this was taken so long ago, I have no idea if I corrected for any of these potential errors in Photoshop already.
This image below is also from when I first started. Isn’t this little monkey having a blast? You have to be mindful of some children who have fair skin as the sun will just washout the color and you’ll have a completely blown out face.
So for this senior portrait session, this gorgeous young lady and I set out at about 12:00 to shoot, I believe. We headed out to this little area by the tracks and I had no idea where the sun would be at that point. I had been shooting in the shade for the majority of the shoot thus far. This photo was shot at 1:36 in the afternoon. I didn’t use flash and I didn’t use any reflectors or other modifiers. I actually really like some of the hair light she is getting. You can tell by the light that the sun was high!
This is one of my favorites. So, the sun here is a little to the right of the subject or camera left. Some of that light bounced around and was able to light her face!
The image below was a session I did in June with an awesome family. I just love this image! It was taken at 5:56 pm. The sun was behind this sweet little girl and I love how this image turned out!
This photo is one of my all time favorites!! The sun is high and behind my subjects.
I love the light at sunset. It’s one of my most favorite times to photography people and families. The sunlight is so much softer. In the fall the light isn’t as strong as summer, but summer sunset shoots are amazing too!
This image is from a fall session I did in September in Washington. I didn’t set the time on the camera, so I wasn’t sure when this was taken. I want to say it was around 5:00 or so. The sun is obviously directly in front of them, but can you see how it isn’t as strong as some of the earlier photos? It seems to be a little more forgiving. I just love, love, love this image. It’s so free and relaxing. It catches this family truly in their element!
Sometimes, if you shoot into the sun, you get haze. Some people don’t care for this haze, but I enjoy some haze and sun flare! Remember, this is art! It’s totally okay if you don’t like it. You can certainly omit these images from your keepers!
I just love the sheer joy in the following photo!! Everyone is having a blast!!!!
The sun in the image above was behind the subjects – you can tell by the reflection on the water.
Well, I hope this helps you tackle some issues with the sun! As I said earlier, I’m still learning the best ways to shoot in the sun, so I challenge myself, so I keep putting myself in these situations. I usually avoid the sun when it is the strongest, but sometimes I just can’t and I have to rely on some of these techniques to get through the shoot.
If you want to learn more and take an introductory DSLR class, please feel free to contact me (firstname.lastname@example.org)! Make sure you come back in 2 weeks for another tip – better yet, submit to me a question or topic you want covered! Thanks so much for hanging out with me!