It’s that time of year when the sun is high in the sky for much of the day. The brightness and warmth of these long days may seem to be made for taking photographs. But, in fact, shooting in direct, harsh sunlight can result in photos that are high contrast, with blown out highlights and deep shadows. Bright overhead sunlight can cause colors to look washed out. And, if you are photographing people, the sunlight can cause them to squint which distorts a person’s facial features.
What to do? Here are some hints for shooting in direct sunlight.
Move to the shade.
This is the simplest solution but the easiest and most effective. If at all possible, move yourself and you subject into an area of shade.
If no shade is available, try making your own by using an umbrella or a sheet or a piece of cardboard to block out the sun. This option works best if you have a helper who can hold the cardboard or the sheet over your subjects head.
If you are photographing people, position your subject isn’t looking directly into the sun. Facing the direct sunlight will cause your subject to squint and that’s not an attractive look. And, frontlighting means that shadows are cast behind your subject causing your subject to look flat and one-dimensional. Sidelighting or backlighting can often give a softer, more flattering effect.
Use fill flash to fill in the darker areas of your image and fill in the shadows.
A reflector is another way that you can add light to the darker areas of your photo. Position the reflector underneath your subject, allowing it to bounce light up and underneath your subject. This will help to reduce some of the contrast and balance out the lighting. You can use almost anything that is a light, neutral tone as a reflector – a sheet, a piece of cardboard or even a light-colored wall can work.
Schedule your photography for the “Golden Hours”. It’s not easy to be able to shoot on a schedule. If you’re like me, you do photography when you can find the time. But, the time of day can have a dramatic effect on your images. The “Golden Hours”, the 1-2 hours before sunset and after sunrise are great times to shoot because the color of the light is golden and soft and the shadows are long. So, if you have the option, try timing your photography for those hours.
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We've seen how managing the ISO setting allows you to control the amount of grain that shows in your photos. But it does more than that. Understanding and working with the ISO setting gives us added flexibility in terms of setting the other two exposure settings–aperture and shutter speed.
The bottom line is that ISO is an important and useful tool, and one that you will want to be comfortable with if you are looking to take creative control of your exposure.