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Taking photos in bright sunlight

When discussing the subject of photography, often the topic of light comes up.

To achieve great photographic results a good source of illumination is always needed; but what happens when there is too much light – in this instance too much sunlight?

Posted on: Wed 14 Nov, 2012 by Gary Dean

Holiday snaps

Most people tend to jet off to sunny and warm places for their annual summer holidays. It’s times such as these that you’ll want to capture some of those memories – but you may well be confronted with too much light during your shooting sessions.

Snapping images for posterity is a great thing but when too much light is picked up by your camera’s sensor then the resulting images will be low quality and feature too much ‘backlighting’ - making the subject in foreground become a silhouette.

Put your back to it

Where possible you should be shooting your point of interest with the sun behind you. This way you avoid the problem of having too much light in your frame and your subject should be perfectly lit.

If you can’t achieve this then the next best thing is try and find an angle where the sun is not directly central to the shot.

You can always adjust the exposure later during editing if the image is still too bright.

Shading your subject

When you’re out in the open and it’s impossible to shoot with the sun behind you, it may be applicable to create your own shade.

Taking something like a beach umbrella is a good way of providing shade for your subject – particularly if it is a person you’re shooting.

If this is not an option then consider what you have in your surrounding area. Trees are an excellent source of shade as they still allow for natural light to filter through leaves and branches into your shot.

Photographing in the shadow of buildings is also another good option, as is crouching down by your car. These two methods are a great way to make taking pictures in bright sunshine much more achievable.

The golden hour

If you can wait before shooting your images, this is the best course of action. The last few hours of sunlight at the end of the day are what many professional photographers consider to be the best time to take photographs.

The sun has moved all the way across the horizon and has lost much of its fierce glare making your job of capturing some ‘keepers’ all the more possible.

Early mornings can also be a great time for photographing.

Get creative

If you have no alternative but to shoot your images in the bright light of day then try and be a bit more creative with how you actually shoot.

People’s faces are notorious for being difficult to photograph in a lot of glare so you could consider a few snaps where faces are not in the shot at all. This kind of technique can still produce an interesting image that can draw the audience in to the rest of the picture.

When you’ve completed your session you can play around with various editing techniques on your computer too. Cropping your shots for a close up of someone’s face will get rid of much of the brightness, as will transforming your image to black and white.

Camera settings

If you have the opportunity to change your camera settings then this can help with bright sunshine photography. Even basic cameras have the option to change mode slightly. Playing with this function could produce some eye catching results.

If shooting with a DSLR camera then set your ISO to as low as possible and your shutter speed for the fastest your camera will allow.

You can also adjust your white balance to the cloudy day point. This too can produce some good results.

If you’re still struggling to get the desired results in sunlight then experiment with what you do have and see what shots you can come up with. You never know, you may be pleasantly surprised.

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