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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Photography 101 {Shooting in full sun}

You may have had someone tell you to shoot in the shade.   Maybe it was even me.  And don't get me wrong... shade is LOVELY for taking photos.  It's easier than other lighting, and there's less room for error.  But did I mention that I live in Arizona, the land of prepetual sunshine!  Really bright sunshine, lots of it, and usually every single day!   So embracing the sun is what I often have to do.  It's summer after all, and I hope you have plenty of it too!
Bright sun can give you some wonderful bold bright colors, if it's properly exposed.  
Let me pass on a few pointers for shooting in full sun.  It's not easy to shoot with lots of direct sunlight, but it is possible and you can end up with some fabulous results!  Here's my top 10 for getting great images in the sun.

1)  Are you shooting in Manual mode yet?  Well you certainly don't have to.  But if you do shoot in  Manual you can do a few things that you can't do in Auto mode that will help you get the pics you want.  So if you are in Manual mode a) be sure to choose spot metering mode.  This will make a huge difference.  b) If your camera has the option, meter from your focal point rather than the center of the frame.  c) Be sure to keep an eye on your light meter. In full sun, even a can slight change in angle can significantly change your exposure.  (If you'd like to learn to shoot your camera in Manual mode, my Manual 'n More class for beginners starts late next week and there are still a small handful of spots left.  But when they fill, registration closes, so don't wait too long. Click here for more info.  All of the above will be taught in class.) 
Even the tiniest bit of shade, under his hat, helps keep the details in his face.I LUV that dirty little knee!
2)  Look for the shade.  You may have to think creatively, but you really don't need a lot of it!  The shaded side of a car or building.  Some of my favorite photos are taken just inside an open garage door.  A tunnel.  Any tiny nook will do.  Look for even the smallest bit of shade around you and place your subject in it.
The day was hot and the big girls naturally found a shady place to relax.   Shade is perfect for shooting when it's sunny out!
3)  What?  You don't have ANY shade you say? Then make some shade!  Bribe someone to be an extra pair of hands to hold up an umbrella or piece of poster board.  Without someone to help you out, try stepping in front of your subject so that your shadow falls on your subject!
For this photo, I had one of the kiddos hold out their hands to block the light on the shells.  You can see their shadow as they are blocking out the sun.  The shells, now in the shade, came out perfectly exposed!
4)  Put the sun behind your subject.  At this angle, even in mid-day, you'll notice shade on their face.  And yes this means you'll be shooting looking into the brightest sun.  (Again for those in Manual mode meter off the the shaded part of their skin.)  This angle also helps avoid squinty subjects.
By putting the sun behind Mimi, her body and face are shadowed.
5)  Again, for Manual mode users, (see this Manual thing really has its advantages!) if you're aiming for some type of shade on your subject, you may want to overexpose just a little to get the shadowed subject properly exposed.  After all you've heard about proper exposure, it's okay.  Go ahead and overexpose a wee bit.

6)  Do not get part sun/part shade on your subject. Change your angle so that your subject has all shadow or all sun but not both.  Beware of the light coming through the trees too, and be sure there is no speckley light either, especially on your subject's face.

7)  Set your ISO low, like 100.  Easy peasy in Manual mode but it is possible to select your ISO in other modes as well.  This will help guard against overexposure.

8)  Use your lens hood.  That's the funny looking black thing that attaches to the end of your lens.  It will help block some of the glare and sun flare.  And besides, it protects your lens from those accidental bumps too.

9)  Photograph the details.  Shoes, flowers and toys can't squint in the sun, but they are an integral part of your story!  So go ahead and capture them in the full sun, but just be sure that they don't have part shadows on them like I discussed in #6.  You'll love the bright colors you'll have from the extra light.
Full sun can produce wonderful bright bold colors.  And flowers don't squint. So go ahead and shoot the details around you in the bright sunshine.    
10)  Use the sun to your advantage and shoot silhouettes!  Now if you don't know this technique, you're gonna have to wait for another Photography 101 post.  But if you're in Manual mode already and you know how, have some fun capturing some amazing silhouettes.

11)  Gotta add one more... Edit!  You know I'm a Lightroom gal so if you're in LR already try these tricks.  Increase your shadows to fill in those dark areas.  Turn down the Whites and Highlights to rescue some of those blown-out areas.  Decrease your Blacks and increase the Vibrance a wee bit to pull out some of the colors and contrast.
This image was edited in Lightroom to fill in some of the darker areas around her eyes and bring out her eyelashes.  
If sun is all you have, go for it!  But be smart about how you are shooting.


  1. Wonderful tips Nancy and am totally following you back now, too!! :)

  2. Your family is beautiful! You have so many blessings! Thank you for visiting and following my blog from Dysfunction Function. I'm now a follower, too! Please check out my children's books. I write and illustrate.

    Great meeting you!

    Melissa (

  3. I now need to go find that hood. I have never used it1 Thanks you so much for sharing your tips. I can't wait to try these.

  4. Love your photography tips Nancy!!! Thanks! and beautiful pictures, as always:)

  5. Beautiful! I can't wait to get a real camera.
    I'm visiting you back from Dysfunctional Junction and following on Bloglovin!
    I can't wait to share ideas with you.
    ~ Megin of VMG206
    Join me each Tuesday and Sunday for my Link Up Parties!

  6. Great tips! It's been awhile since I've visited and I'm glad I did! Your photography is amazing (not that I had forgotten)! I always have a hard time shooting with full sun! I definitely set my ISO low so that's good and I always try to avoid having the subject in both shade and sun (hate harsh lines) :o) Love that pic of the sun behind your subject (it's gorgeous) and that flower shot is stunning :o) Hope you have a wonderful Tuesday!


  7. Amazing photographs ! beautiful family ...


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