Direct sunlight photography is an important issue, because when it comes to taking great photos, lighting is everything. That’s why professional photographers spend thousands of dollars on lighting equipment for their studios. And when they have to take pictures outside, they do so during the “golden hour,” which is the hour of light just after sunrise and the hour of light just before sunset.
Unfortunately, though, life isn’t perfect. And those moments that you want to capture forever don’t always happen in a studio or during two of the 24 hours in the day.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get some clouds to help soften the harsh light of the sun — but more than likely, you’re going to need to learn how to deal with direct sunlight. So we’ve put together some tips for direct sunlight photography to help you through it.
Direct Sunlight Photography – Tip #1
Focus on the Shadows
Most of the time, we avoid photographing in direct sunlight because of the harshness it adds to a photo. With direct sunlight comes a lot of contrast — bright, well-lit areas of the photo seem to compete with the deep, dark shadows that come with it.
When we think about photographing in direct sunlight, we think about just that — the light. Too often, we forget about the other side of spectrum, which are the shadows that appear as well. It’s the shadows that create some of the contrast we so often try to avoid, but it’s also the shadows that can add a pop of interest.
Instead of avoiding shadows entirely, look at your photos from a different perspective and focus on how you can use the shadows to your advantage.
Direct Sunlight Photography – Tip #2
Reflectors are your friend
When it comes to photographing in direct sunlight, it’s often a lot easier to photograph landscapes and environments than it is to photograph people.
In landscapes, contrast can be a welcome friend. In portraits, the opposite is usually the case.
The biggest issue for many is that it’s close to impossible to photograph someone with the sun in their face, because their instincts are to squint and scrunch their face. It doesn’t take an expert to know that squinting and scrunching doesn’t make for the most flattering portraits.
But the fix isn’t as simple as photographing someone with the light at their back. The result is an incredibly bright background and a very dark, poorly-lit subject. This is where reflectors come in handy.
With a reflector, you can photograph someone with the light behind them but still use the natural light to help highlight your subject from the front. And reflectors are easy to come by — you can easily buy a cheap one online or in many stores to suit your needs.
You also don’t necessarily have to use a reflector that was made specifically for photography. Use your environment — any light-colored buildings, sidewalks, snow, or other surfaces can work wonders as a reflector.
Direct Sunlight Photography – Tip #3
When All Else Fails, Find (or Make) Shade
If you can’t seem to make a photo look good in direct sunlight no matter how many reflectors you use, no matter how you take advantage of the shadows, and no matter what positions you try, perhaps it’s time to try to find a shady place or use what’s around you to create shade.
This can require a bit of creativity on your end. While in some circumstances finding shade is a possibility, there are many locations and times of day when shady spots are few and far between or even nonexistent.
That’s why you need to learn to get creative and make your own shade. If you’re on a beach, have someone hold up a beach towel, or find an umbrella to use. In the middle of the Grand Canyon? Find a rock formation to provide a bit of shade.
Use nearby buildings or trees when possible, too. Anything goes when it comes to finding and using shade to your advantage.
Direct Sunlight Photography – Tip #4
Don’t Be Afraid
In the end, it’s important to keep in mind that sometimes things just don’t work out, no matter what we try. But by being creative and finding ways to combat direct sunlight, you might just end up with a photo you never could have gotten otherwise.
Don’t stress, be creative, and have fun!
And if the sun shines bright, it’s often a perfect time for some awesome landscape photography!