Posted by Sam's Club Blogger on Aug 21, 2018 12:53:39 PM

Oh, sunshine. We crave you. We love you. And for the most part we need you when we take photos outdoors. But sometimes you’re a bit much.

Let’s take a look at sun photography – it’s benefits and drawbacks, and tips and tricks to absorb its positive rays without sizzling up an otherwise great photo.

1. Avoid Midday Sun Photography, If You Can

Any photographer will tell you to avoid outdoor photography in the middle of the day if you can. When the sun is at the peak of the sky, between around 11-3 PM, it’s extremely bright and it produces an influx of unwelcome contrast in your photos.

Particularly with portrait photography, your midday outdoor portraits will likely end up with overexposed hot spots on the top of their head and unflattering harsh shadows on their face and body. If they’re facing the sun, even from an angle, they’ll probably be squinting as well.

The best time to shoot outdoor portraits in the sunshine is earlier in the day or late afternoon. If you can’t avoid it, however, there are tips and tricks to make direct sun photography work.

Sun photography tips, midday sun time of day SC1

2. Photography Ideas to Accommodate for Direct Sunlight

Ok, it's not all bad. Let’s first point out some advantages of direct sunlight photography. It creates photos that are super vibrant and lively, great for showcasing nature’s rich blue sky and green foliage, the bright color of your daughter’s dress, and the palpable heat of a summer day. 

But if your photos are coming out over-exposed, squinty, or with unflattering contrast  try something to mitigate it.

  • Shoot in RAW mode
    Using your DSLR camera’s RAW mode will allow you a lot more flexibility to edit your photos afterward. That way, you can slightly underexpose your sunny day photography (-1 or -1.5 exposure) to prevent background elements from flooding with white, and just brighten it up in post. 

  • Flip Around
    Have your subject put their back to the sun. When you’re shooting, use your camera’s spot meter to ensure that the light is balanced for their face. This will prevent your camera from trying to accommodate for the bright sun behind them. 
Sun photography tips, backlighting SC1
  • Add More or Less Sun  (Yes, it’s possible!)
    If you are ready to take photography a bit more seriously, these photography tools will be life changers.
    • A multi-purpose reflector/diffuser does it all. The reflective panel allows you to bounce sunlight onto your subject to fill dark shadows (say goodbye, raccoon eyes!). Or, use the built in translucent scrim panel to soften overhead sun to a comfortable, less harsh level. The whole thing is collapsible and relatively affordable!

    • A neutral density (ND) filter: Attaching a simple ND camera filter to your lens makes it possible to take certain types of photos – like a deliberate motion blur or a shallow depth of field – in bright sun. 

3. Protect Yourself, Your Subject and Your Photos

Sunscreen: For yourself and your subject, no shot is worth a painful burn.

Lens hood: When direct sunlight hits your lens from any angle, it can produce discolored spots on your photo. This 'lens flare' is sometimes a desired artistic effect, but when it's a nuisance, a lens hood is a great tool to minimize or prevent it.

Sunglasses and hats: Quite often, a squinty shot can be fixed with an accessory. Sunglasses and hats will make your subject more comfortable, and it’s a great way to enhance the spring or summer vibe of your photos. 

Sun photography tips, accessorize SC14. Find Soft Shade, or Make Your Own

Far and away the best way to photograph great portraits during midday sun is to find a little shade. Don’t over-correct by cloaking yourself and your subject in a shadowy alley, but find partial shade for your subject to pose in. 

A treed area (or even a single tree), a beach umbrella, a nearby building – anything that will soften the harshness of the direct sunlight will make your subject more comfortable and result in beautiful photos worthy of turning into personalized home décor.  

Tip: You (the photographer) can still be in the sun. With the light coming from behind or above you, your subject will still be bright and vibrant. 

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Watch out for: sneaky hotspots. A tree or pergola might offer decent shade, but small gaps can allow hotspots of unwelcome brightness through, which aren’t easy to fix in editing.

5. Got time? Wait it Out

If you have a flexible itinerary for your next beach day or mountainous excursion with the family, you might want to wait it out. Timing is everything in photography.

  • Know where the sun rises and sets and think about the desired backdrop you hope to capture. Time your visit accordingly.
  • Clouds are the hero. If you see a fluffy one on its way to cover the harsh sun for a few precious moments, be ready to shoot.
  • The golden hour just after sunrise and just before sunset is magically warm. It produces stunning photos you'll want to print immediately.
  • The blue (half) hour is just before sunrise and just after sunset. By slowing down your shutter speed, you can still capture stunning detail and serene photos

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Your camera is your tool to make sunny moments last. With these photography tips in your back pocket, you'll be able to soak it in without getting burnt out.

Ready to bring those stunning shots to life? Print all your favorites with custom photo books, wall décor, and meaningful photo gifts for friends and family. 

SHOP PHOTO GIFTS

 

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