Shooting in Direct Sunlight



Sunlight can be a photographer’s best friend since it is a natural light source that can illuminate your subject in several different ways, free of cost. Knowing how to use sunlight to get an intended effect is part of the tricks of the trade. Many people prefer to shoot on a bright but cloudy day when the scene is adequately lit but the intensity of the light is just enough not to cause any harsh and strong shadows. There are other times, however, when you just can’t wait for the clouds to come and you have to shoot in direct sunlight.

Direct sunlight can negatively impact the shot. It can cause blown out highlights, hard shadows, chromatic aberration, lens flare and oversaturated colors. These are quite a lot of issues that we have to consider but there are simple ways to counter the problems we might face when shooting in the bright light of day.

Shoot in the shade – If you’re shooting a person or a portable object, transfer to the shade.  Be prepared and bring an umbrella or a sheet of cloth in case there is no shade nearby. This also drastically lessens the chances of the subject to squint from the sun’s glare. A photo of a person squinting will not look so good.

Use fill flash – direct sunlight behind a subject will darken the foreground. By using a flash to illuminate it, you can make sure that the subject’s features will be more visible. Adjust the intensity of the flash to a setting less than its regular output so that the lighting will appear more natural rather than as if the subject was caught by a car’s headlights.

Change the perspective – just moving your camera at a different angle can cut down on glare caused by the sun. Move around your subject; play around with different camera viewpoints until you are satisfied with the composition as well as the lighting.


Use a filter – a polarized filter can mean a world of difference when shooting in bright sunlight. It cuts atmospheric haze and darkens scenes that looked washed out by the glare. Colors come out more vibrant with less blown out areas. If you don’t have a polarizer, you can improvise by using a pair of polarized sunglasses instead. This photo shows the outcome of using the sun shades with polarized lens. The upper left portion that hasn’t been included in the glasses’ frame looks very different from the area which the lens covers.

Use a lens hood – lens hoods are pretty basic accessories but they do help a lot in shielding the lens from the sun’s harsh glare. A lens hood lessens the possibility of lens flare and chromatic aberration.

Use a diffuser – a simple diffuser such as a white sheet or foam board can soften the intensity of the harsh light. This creates a more even lighting for your subject and reduces areas that might become over or underexposed without the diffuser.

Turn your subject into a silhouette – If your subject appears too dark because of the sun hitting it directly from behind, and you choose not to or are not able to use a fill flash, then turn your subject into a silhouette instead. Lines, shapes and textures become prominent as well as the mood of a scene can become more dramatic. Ships sailing on bright empty seas, trees swaying in the heat of the sun, people frolicking on the shore, these and many more would make fantastic silhouette shots.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 9:09 am and is filed under Articles, Nature Photography, Photography Basics, Photography Techniques, Photography Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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