Lesson 14: Direct sunlight

Unfortunately, lighting conditions aren’t always what we’d like them to be, and while I have advised you to avoid direct sunlight where possible, I know that sometimes you will find yourself in direct sunlight with a moment you want to capture.  
 
I don’t suggest letting the availability or lack of good light dictate whether or not you capture a moment. Always go with emotions and find good light when you can. 
 
And if you’re in direct sunlight, don’t despair! Despite what I’ve said, direct sunlight is not always a bad thing, and can be made to work.

In direct sunlight the shadows can be harsh, uneven and distracting.

In direct sunlight the shadows can be harsh, uneven and distracting.

Instead of having your subject face the sun, put the sun behind them. Now the light on Jack's face is softer and more diffuse. Do you see the difference? Look at how much happier he is now he is not squinting in the sun too!

Instead of having your subject face the sun, put the sun behind them. Now the light on Jack's face is softer and more diffuse. Do you see the difference? Look at how much happier he is now he is not squinting in the sun too!

Put this into action:

  • Contrary to popular belief, which suggests placing your subject facing the sun, your best bet is actually to have the sun behind your subject. Again, try not to pose them directly but find natural ways to get them placed in the best light. In this way, your subject’s face is still in shade, and you can still avoid harsh shadows. You also won't have to worry about your shadow ending up in the photo!
     
  • Alternatively, you can use the shadows to create drama - this can be particularly effective if you convert the photo to black and white afterwards. 
     
  • Another strategy is to include more of the background in your photo so the harsh shadows on someone’s face are less obvious and a smaller part of the photo. 
     
  • Note: this works particularly well on the beach or in the snow, where you may not have shade, but you do have a great reflector (sand or snow) to get some indirect light on your subject. 

Here are some iPhone photo examples of direct sunlight:

Here are some DSLR photo examples of direct sunlight:

Today’s photo prompt: Take some shots in direct sunlight!  
Up next: Indoors without much natural light

Note: I'll be giving you daily photo prompts to help you in your photo-a-day project but they are completely optional. Ultimately you should choose the photo for your project that best reflects what you most want to remember about the day.

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