How to Photograph in Bright Sunlight

When the weather is good and the sun is shining bright, you want to get out there and enjoy it to the fullest! The best times of day to photograph are during the Golden Hours- right after sunrise and right before sunset- but that doesn’t mean you can’t achieve fantastic results throughout the day. Here are some useful tips to help you capture those sunny days like a pro!

Work with the Sun’s Position

You can’t change the position of the sun in the sky, but you can work with it. Being aware of where the sun is and how the light falls on what you want to photograph is key to getting good results. Experiment with different shooting angles to see how it affects the outcome. Strong sunlight is very directional and often casts dark shadows, so a little change in angle can make a big difference!

Use Shade for Portraits

Outside the golden hours, direct sunlight tends to be very unflattering for portraits as it will show up every blemish on the skin and create harsh shadows on the face. Try positioning your subject under some shade such as trees so instead of direct sunlight, the face is illuminated by softer ambient light. A good trick is to create your own shade with something such as an umbrella held out of frame. A reflector held beneath the subject’s face will help light up the face in a flattering way.

Adjust Your Settings

Sometimes, finding shade or changing your position isn’t possible, but it’s still possible to achieve a great shot by mastering your camera’s settings! If you normally shoot in Automatic mode, take the plunge and shoot in Manual, choosing a low ISO setting, adjusting White Balance and using Spot Metering to avoid the “bleached” overexposed look. It’s conditions like this that can really help you improve your photography, so embrace the challenge!

Be Adaptable

Giving yourself the best chance of success when shooting in very bright sunlight comes down to trial and error, as well as the willingness to change your plans if things aren’t working. It’s always a good idea to shoot your chosen subject with different exposure settings- firstly with the one you feel is right, then two at a higher or lower exposure, which may turn out better! A mildly underexposed picture can always be edited, but an overexposed picture will lose details, so keep this in mind while shooting.

Embrace Shadows

Strong sunlight brings extremes to your photography- Bright areas set against dark shadows can create a dynamic, high contrast image that makes a big statement. Instead of trying to minimise shadows, embrace them, looking for strong silhouettes, long shadows that you can use as leading lines in your composition, or shadows that pick up ambient light and take on the colour of the environment. The study of light and shadow will help you pick up skills that you can build on!

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