Photographing in Full Sun (Pt.2)
6. Get some sunglasses.
For your camera, that is. Some photographers take advantage of Polarizing filters or Neutral Density filters for shooting in bright conditions. They allow less light in and therefore allow you to use smaller apertures and slower shutter speeds. Polarizing filters can also help cut down on reflections and intensify blue skies. They are a little bit like putting sunglasses on your lens.
7. Widen up your shot.
Shooting portraits can be challenging in direct sunlight, so it can help to shoot wider, taking in the entire scene and to have your subject involved in an activity or looking in a different direction. When you have subjects looking at you in the sun you may find a lot of people get “squinty,” so it can help to have them close their eyes and then open them again at the count of three – and then SNAP!
Edited with Grace Collection Photoshop actions (see editing tips for bright sunlight photos below).
8. Plan to shoot when the sun is lower if possible.
If you have the luxury of planning the time you’ll be shooting, it’s best to avoid mid-day sun. Most photographers know that the coveted light for beautiful photos comes at “golden hour” – that time right after sunrise and before sunset. This light is low in the sky and is therefore softer and the direction is more flattering any way you shoot it, as well as having a much more pleasant color (thus, the “golden hour” term). This is a time when setting a custom white balance is very important as the intense golden hue can be dramatic. You can read more about finding great light (and helping eyes sparkle) in this blog post. I especially recommend planning for good light (either by timing your shoots appropriately or by knowing your location so you are assured you’ll have some open shade to work with) if you are doing client sessions.
9. Wait just a bit.
Even waiting just a little bit can have a huge impact on the quality of light if you can let the sun go down a little in the sky … a little later in the afternoon versus high noon can make a big difference. Also, if you see some clouds hanging in the sky, waiting for a few to float over and provide some cover can provide you with a giant softbox in the sky with lovely, diffused light.
10. White Balance.
Don’t forget to custom white balance for correct color. This is especially important if you are shooting in that beautiful golden hour light as it can create a strong yellow cast on skin.
11. Other quick tricks.
If you can’t find a way to shade or manipulate that bright sun, just hide from it a bit it and throw on some sunglasses or a hat to shade the face or at least the eyes – or how about an umbrella? Some people also use fill flash, but I find I much prefer using natural light.
12. Editing help for photos taken in direct sunlight.
You can slightly underexpose in order to give yourself a little room in post processing … this may allow you to bring back more of an overexposed background. But be careful that you don’t go too far under proper exposure or your skin tones and details will suffer. Use actions like Save Highlights, Light Reflector and Brighten Shadows to help reduce too bright highlights and too dark shadows. See the Luminosity Collection, Picture Perfect or Grace Collection for these types of exposure helper actions. A matte finish can really help soften images with harsh shadows and too much contrast. Some of my favorites for this are Film Haze from Luminosity Collection, as well as Airy Matte and Heathered Matte from Grace Collection.
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