Although natural light is usually the best light for photography, shooting in direct sunlight presents various challenges including producing images with lens flare, over-saturated colors and high contrast. Trying to photograph people in direct sunlight can also result in pictures full of squinting, blinking and grimacing in the bright light. However, with a few tricks, you can make shooting in bright sunlight quite productive.
Right time of day
Time of day significantly influences your shot so if you have the ability to wait for the perfect light, do so. When dealing with sunlight, dawn and dusk are the best times as the color and direction of the light is more forgiving than sun from directly overhead.
If possible, move yourself and your subject matter into the shade. This is easy when shooting portraits as people don’t mind moving into the shade but not always possible with immovable objects such as flowers, plants, trees, etc. In such cases, create your own shade with a reflector, umbrella, your shadow or someone else’s shadow.
Bright sunlight can create dark, harsh shadows but you can fill these in by using a reflector to redirect the sunlight. A reflector bounces the light into your subject matter and enables you to photograph into the sun when using a fill in flash.
Fill in flash
The standard photography training may suggest placing the sun behind the subject matter for ample lighting, but shooting into the sun can make the subject appear dark or cause lens flare. By using a fill in flash, you can fill in the shadows and help combat dark subjects and flare.
To combat lens flare, use a lens hood or construct one from a card or your hand to help shield the lens from the direct sunlight. Keep your lens hood or hand out of the shot and use a tripod to avoid causing lens blur from any contact with the camera.
When you can’t move your subject matter, move yourself to gain a different perspective on the shot. Shoot from above it, on the other side, or from down low shooting upward. By choosing a different perspective, you change the angle of the sun that hits your subject and achieve a different feel to the image.
Although using filters all the time can interfere with the natural look of your shots, when dealing with bright sunlight, a polarizing filter can reduce reflections and a neutral density filter can reduce the light entering the camera. With a filter, you can use smaller apertures and slower shutter speeds to gain more control over exposure.
Featured image by isit_ric