Photographing in the direct sun can be quite a challenge at times. And sometimes to get the subject and aesthetic you are after, it cannot be helped. Here are some tips to get the image you want.
With some subjects, you’ll be able to move them into the shade. This is particularly relevant with portraits where your subject is highly portable. If your subject is not movable, you can try to create your own shade. Use your own shadow, the shadow of someone else or bring an object with you (like an umbrella, a reflector or large sheet of white card) to block out the sun.
When moving your subject isn’t possible, don’t forget that you can move (lots of photographers tend to think that their subject has to move, we get too reliant on using zoom). This might be moving to the other side of the object, shooting from directly above or even getting down low and shooting up. Doing so will change the angle of the sun hitting both your subject and the camera and give your image a completely different feel.
Take Your Time
Waiting for the sun to come down a little will do wonders for your shots. This is why photographs taken at sunset or sunrise are great, with avoiding the sunlight directly overhead and getting some fantastic colours as well.
Sometimes a filter can be handy when shooting in bright sunlight, such as a polarising or neutral density filter. The polarizing filter will help cut down on reflections, and both will cut down the light getting into your camera to let you use slower shutter speeds and smaller apertures if you’re looking for more control over these elements of exposure (check out our previous posts on exposure and the exposure triangle).
Metering your shots in direct sunlight can be very difficult. You can meter off the subject to ensure that it is adequately exposed. Take some sample shots and check these to make some adjustments. A good idea when it comes to metering during a midday photo shoot is to use spot metering then choosing the main subject. Or you could try to find a middle point, somewhere that is not too bright and not too dark and use that to meter off. This will ensure that every element of your photograph is bright enough to see.
Photographing your subjects up close under direct sunlight is an invitation for trouble. Shadows would be more pronounced, so as much as possible, go wide when taking photos under the midday sun. But as they always say, the rules are meant to be broken!