5 More Tips for Shooting in the Sun

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I’m in Florida this month and living in England, I never really have to consider the sun much. But doing sessions here, I have to consider it constantly. So if you have a session in the sun coming up, consider these tips:

1. Pay attention: You really have to pay attention to what’s going on. Where the sun is falling. I snapped this quick one of my family together and although I placed them in the shade, I had to move people around to make sure none of their faces were blown out by the sun falling between the trees.

2. Utilise Shade – I did a session last week in the downtown area of my town. It was high noon and the sun was relentless. I got there early and cased the joint to decide where I would place them in the shade of buildings, overhangs and awnings. Sadly, there were a few spots I would’ve love to have used, but they had no available protection from the sun. Although from the resulting photos, it looks like there was plenty of shade, I really had to be on the ball to keep them in the little bits of shade to be found. Often, I was in the blinding sun with a zoom lens while they were standing in the shade, sometimes across the road.

I stood across the road for this one. Me in the sun, them in the shade of a building.

3. Catchlights – When you utilise tip 3, make sure that you’re positioning your subjects towards the light source or use a reflector to aim some light back into the eyes for juicy catchlights.

4. Think background – Much like with white seamless in the studio, you can make beautiful portraits utilising the sun outside of the area where you’re photographing. Like with this photo, it was another blindingly bright day last week (when is it not blinding in Florida?) when I photographed a birthday party. This little girl was in the shade of the porch with the bright outdoors behind her. It gives the effect of an exposed foreground and a blown out background like when you light a white roll in the studio.

5. Bokeh – Sun shining through trees makes for fabulous bokeh. Place your subject in an area where the sun isn’t hitting them, open up your aperture and zoom in.

What about you? If you live in a sunny place, I’d love to know your ideas for shooting in the sun!

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Elizabeth Halford

is a photographer and advertising creative producer in Orlando, FL. She wrote her first article for dPS in 2010. Her most popular one racked up over 100k shares!

  • Number 1 and 2 definitely…

    Although much of my photography does not deal with people (rather objects and landscapes) lighting plays a huge role in how and what I choose to photograph. Often I underexpose a little if something is in the direct sun or use bracketing/take a couple exposures of the same setting and create an HDR image when the lighting is harsh in some respects and not enough in others. Of course that is harder when you are using live subject… but it CAN be done if you and the subjects are patient.

    My Main Blog:: Cabin Fever in Vermont

    Northeast Kingdom Photography Blog

  • Another big one I think would be using a lens hood. While it’s a heated debate over if they should be on to protect the front lens, I think everyone is in agreement that even if it doesn’t help it’s not going to degrade the image any. For canon people, the L series of lenses come with lens hoods. Non-L means you’re on your own. The first lens hood I got was for my 17-55 f/2.8 since flaring was a common issue people reported with it. I still skipped on the $60 canon one and went with a $15 opteka one and it’s worked great.

    And another thing to experiment with is using a flash for the catchlights instead of a reflector. Not something to try on your first paid shoot but should practice though. Need to practice because some cameras (canon, especially) will automatically turn down the power of the flash when it realizes you’re using it in bright light. Hence why you need to see how your camera handles things before you use it in a shoot.

  • Forgot to mention if you don’t want to spend any money on a lens hood (aside from a sheet of paper) http://www.lenshoods.co.uk/ has printable lens hoods (that site has been mentioned here several times before). Although keep in mind if you use a white piece of paper it’s going to basically wrap the lens in a softbox, not sure what that would do to the final image. Ideally you would print it out and then transfer the pattern to black cardboard or craft foam.

  • These tips work for shooting people, who you can locate and position in ways that will best utilize whatever light is available. But what about things that are not moveable? I’m thinking, in particular, of when we do travel photography in a sunny locale– unless the trip is structured around photography, you don’t even have much control over what time of day you’re photographing a certain place. Some tips on handling such scenarios would be more useful.

  • Beautiful photos Elizabeth! Thanks for the tips 🙂 I live in a sunny country all year round with rain.

  • The top photo in this post uses the kind of light (spectral, various names) I have heard from everyone that should be avoided at all costs.

    I live in Florida, quite the sunny place, and clients cannot always meet at 8am or 7pm, so I have to often deal with the harsh light here.

    This recent senior portrait collection I shot was between 10am and 12pm and using a few of the techniques above, including shooting in shade, using bokeh, but more importantly always using my strobe (SB-600) off camera for every shot:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/4/26/florida-senior-portraits-spring-2010-promotion.html

  • Johan

    I second MeiTeng, except for the sunny country.

    That marine looks like Hawkeye Pierce would look about now 🙂

  • I’m by no stretch of the imagination a pro, but living in Kansas and shooting mostly landscapes I find a Circular Polarizer to be absolutely indispensable. In addition to dropping out some of the unwanted sunlight, if you shooting a blue sky, the CPL may pick up some colors you don’t see and that you can enhance during post.

  • I’m a huge fan of using .

  • Thanks for the tips, Elizabeth – especially #3. Need to get some reflectors soon.

    About shooting in the sun: I sometimes like to use the opportunity to get creative with flare. I was in Bristol last year and here are some of the photos I took: http://www.shutteria.com/2009/10/seeing-bristol.html
    The last one has some flare in it.

    I also took a nice flare shot in Munich once (last photo): http://www.shutteria.com/2009/07/photo-blog-post-on-kaufingerstrasse.html

  • I shoot backlit all the time. Sure it doesn’t work at high noon, but a couple hours either way and you’ve got some good possibility. I never use a flash, but look for natural reflectors and shoot in the shade too. It works for me.

  • Love #4 she looks angelic!

  • shboyd

    Thank you for that information…… I’ve been so nervous about doing shoots in the middle of the day in unknown locations for that very reason… HARSH SUN…. and we have A lot of it here!

  • I really needed to read this. I’ve shot in too many overcast days, yesterday I was a little overwhelmed in (all) the sunshine.

  • Jen

    I am still in the learning phase when it comes to photography but one thing I would add is “Don’t be afraid of the sun.” I have sometimes actually included the sun in my shots and gotten great results from the effect of rays interacting with my subjects.

  • These are mostly great photos with the exception of the first which has a lot of blown areas and the bokeh one with the blue CA on her hair.

    Speaking of that, CA is always a problem shooting against bright light.

    These are all good tips including those in the comments.

    @Jason, your photos are just fantastic!! Off camera strobe suggestion duly noted. You should write an article.

  • Mike

    Great tips, all really useful here in Los Angeles, too. 🙂

  • I am a corporate photographer and run a photography studio business at PixSync The article which you had shared is informative. It’s a pity we don’t get much outdoors here in urban Singapore.

  • Your last picture is particularly splendid to say the least. Very appropriate comments, suggestions, and best of all, you have exhibits A, B, and C to prove your point.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Miguel Perez
    Orlando, FL

  • johnp

    Yes I agree a circular polariser is very usefull in a lot of bright situations, I also like to spot meter on the face especially if you don’t have a lot of setup time.

  • Nice article. I especially like picture number 4.

    Taking photos in the sun is a particularly tricky one. I find that the quality is not so great when you use a phone camera (lets face it we mostly use this for unplanned photos). Changing the setting to auto flash mostly works although i’d also be interested to know of any other techniques.

  • Ali

    Thanks for the great advice. I am trying to hard to schedule my shots during golden hours!! This reminds me again that sun can be a friend as welll.

    @Jason – I second what Karen said. You should write an article! Wonderful work done in sunny conditions!!!!

  • My brother is getting married on the 22nd, they have asked me to take the pictures. I’m a big fan of photography, while I know a few things I am no where near great. I’m not aspiring to be a professional either. I do, however, want to take good pictures 🙂 (who doesn’t LOL!!) Ok this wedding is going to be outside in TEXAS, 10am beside a lake. I always worry about the sun, it’s brutal in Texas, even at 10am it can be bad. I am terrified I won’t be able to get something good for them. Any advice for this situation?

  • Thanks for the tips. Shooting on sunny days is my fav!!!

  • Great tips, Elizabeth! And I’m jealous…I wish it weren’t so expensive to visit Britain for us American w/ the weak $ …i so want to go visit my cottage in Marlesford and take my family so they can see my history.

    anyhoo, i have found that my huge reflector also is a great shade :-). I will be by myself shooting a client and the sun has peeked around the trees by late morning in my best shooting spot…so, i get out one of my tall lights, attach my big reflector, and scoot the stand up to the right place for creating a shade over my client’s head/shoulders (i shoot headshots). and it works great! no need for an assistant ;-)…i don’t have anyone that tall anyway, LOL.

    my problem w/ using flash fill light when facing the sun is that it gets too blown out – i don’t have a flash that will change power settings, however. is that the key? i DO use reflectors, and those are usually enough. many times, i’ve used just the flash on my DSLR w/ a piece of plastic, white, see-thru milk jug taped to it as a make shift ‘softbox.’ it works sometimes, but sometimes it is still too blown out. hmmm.. guess i need to practise more w/ fil flash.

  • Gary

    I live on a tropical island in the southern Caribbean and I have found the use of a lens hood works much like the visor on a baseball cap to keep out the harsh glare of the sun, especially all those beach shots…g

  • Roy Richards

    There are only two tips which will help with extremely sunlit shots. (1) Use a variety of shutter-speeds, especially if you’re using a large-aperture prime lens to artistically blur the background with a pleasing effect. You might also use the bracketing feature, if your camera has that tool. (2) Consider using a good polarizing filter. The best kind allows you to rotate the polarizing glass to get the best lighting-effect—after you’ve screwed it onto the lens—as rotating the filter can lighten or darken the ambient light to your preference.

    (That’s a very good tip about the bokeh effect. Thanks for posting it!

  • Wait for the late afternoon.

  • Shripad

    I generally prefer using Picasa software to enhance my snaps where you can get the desired efect you want. Otherwise, using usual techniques helps many times to getr good pics.

  • Mike Minick

    Where I can, I sometimes use my 5 in 1 reflector as a background. Try to make your camera gear do double duty:)

  • Bill wayne

    enjoyed reading this particular article and I am sure that it will be of great help to me , the tips will always spring to mind the instant they become nessessary to be of use , many thanks Bill.

  • Michelle wilkinson

    I live in az. Sunny all year around. I have learned to do it when the sun goes down.
    Thanks for the great tips. I will try.

  • I could use your tips! Great Post!

  • Love, love, LOVE the last two photos, especially the little girl. Thanks for the eye-candy and great tips!

  • Sun Shots

    We overpower the sun, and use it as a backlight. Check out our work at http://www.sun-shots.com

Some Older Comments

  • mom2my10 May 19, 2010 10:31 am

    Love, love, LOVE the last two photos, especially the little girl. Thanks for the eye-candy and great tips!

  • Mark May 15, 2010 10:56 am

    I could use your tips! Great Post!

  • Michelle wilkinson May 15, 2010 04:13 am

    I live in az. Sunny all year around. I have learned to do it when the sun goes down.
    Thanks for the great tips. I will try.

  • Bill wayne May 15, 2010 01:58 am

    enjoyed reading this particular article and I am sure that it will be of great help to me , the tips will always spring to mind the instant they become nessessary to be of use , many thanks Bill.

  • Mike Minick May 14, 2010 10:55 pm

    Where I can, I sometimes use my 5 in 1 reflector as a background. Try to make your camera gear do double duty:)

  • Shripad May 14, 2010 02:53 pm

    I generally prefer using Picasa software to enhance my snaps where you can get the desired efect you want. Otherwise, using usual techniques helps many times to getr good pics.

  • Lewis Santos May 14, 2010 11:06 am

    Wait for the late afternoon.

  • Roy Richards May 14, 2010 09:43 am

    There are only two tips which will help with extremely sunlit shots. (1) Use a variety of shutter-speeds, especially if you're using a large-aperture prime lens to artistically blur the background with a pleasing effect. You might also use the bracketing feature, if your camera has that tool. (2) Consider using a good polarizing filter. The best kind allows you to rotate the polarizing glass to get the best lighting-effect---after you've screwed it onto the lens---as rotating the filter can lighten or darken the ambient light to your preference.

    (That's a very good tip about the bokeh effect. Thanks for posting it!

  • Gary May 14, 2010 02:43 am

    I live on a tropical island in the southern Caribbean and I have found the use of a lens hood works much like the visor on a baseball cap to keep out the harsh glare of the sun, especially all those beach shots...g

  • Jackie May 14, 2010 02:27 am

    Great tips, Elizabeth! And I'm jealous...I wish it weren't so expensive to visit Britain for us American w/ the weak $ ...i so want to go visit my cottage in Marlesford and take my family so they can see my history.

    anyhoo, i have found that my huge reflector also is a great shade :-). I will be by myself shooting a client and the sun has peeked around the trees by late morning in my best shooting spot...so, i get out one of my tall lights, attach my big reflector, and scoot the stand up to the right place for creating a shade over my client's head/shoulders (i shoot headshots). and it works great! no need for an assistant ;-)...i don't have anyone that tall anyway, LOL.

    my problem w/ using flash fill light when facing the sun is that it gets too blown out - i don't have a flash that will change power settings, however. is that the key? i DO use reflectors, and those are usually enough. many times, i've used just the flash on my DSLR w/ a piece of plastic, white, see-thru milk jug taped to it as a make shift 'softbox.' it works sometimes, but sometimes it is still too blown out. hmmm.. guess i need to practise more w/ fil flash.

  • Kimberly May 14, 2010 02:23 am

    Thanks for the tips. Shooting on sunny days is my fav!!!

  • Lisa McCully May 14, 2010 02:05 am

    My brother is getting married on the 22nd, they have asked me to take the pictures. I'm a big fan of photography, while I know a few things I am no where near great. I'm not aspiring to be a professional either. I do, however, want to take good pictures :) (who doesn't LOL!!) Ok this wedding is going to be outside in TEXAS, 10am beside a lake. I always worry about the sun, it's brutal in Texas, even at 10am it can be bad. I am terrified I won't be able to get something good for them. Any advice for this situation?

  • Ali May 12, 2010 02:54 am

    Thanks for the great advice. I am trying to hard to schedule my shots during golden hours!! This reminds me again that sun can be a friend as welll.

    @Jason - I second what Karen said. You should write an article! Wonderful work done in sunny conditions!!!!

  • MaryAnn May 10, 2010 08:35 pm

    Nice article. I especially like picture number 4.

    Taking photos in the sun is a particularly tricky one. I find that the quality is not so great when you use a phone camera (lets face it we mostly use this for unplanned photos). Changing the setting to auto flash mostly works although i'd also be interested to know of any other techniques.

  • johnp May 10, 2010 05:00 pm

    Yes I agree a circular polariser is very usefull in a lot of bright situations, I also like to spot meter on the face especially if you don't have a lot of setup time.

  • Miguel Perez May 10, 2010 03:29 am

    Your last picture is particularly splendid to say the least. Very appropriate comments, suggestions, and best of all, you have exhibits A, B, and C to prove your point.

    Thanks for sharing,

    Miguel Perez
    Orlando, FL

  • Eugene Corporate Photography May 9, 2010 05:30 pm

    I am a corporate photographer and run a photography studio business at PixSync The article which you had shared is informative. It's a pity we don't get much outdoors here in urban Singapore.

  • Mike May 9, 2010 01:57 pm

    Great tips, all really useful here in Los Angeles, too. :)

  • Karen Stuebing May 9, 2010 12:29 am

    These are mostly great photos with the exception of the first which has a lot of blown areas and the bokeh one with the blue CA on her hair.

    Speaking of that, CA is always a problem shooting against bright light.

    These are all good tips including those in the comments.

    @Jason, your photos are just fantastic!! Off camera strobe suggestion duly noted. You should write an article.

  • Jen May 9, 2010 12:09 am

    I am still in the learning phase when it comes to photography but one thing I would add is "Don't be afraid of the sun." I have sometimes actually included the sun in my shots and gotten great results from the effect of rays interacting with my subjects.

  • Steff May 8, 2010 10:23 am

    I really needed to read this. I've shot in too many overcast days, yesterday I was a little overwhelmed in (all) the sunshine.

  • shboyd May 8, 2010 08:12 am

    Thank you for that information...... I've been so nervous about doing shoots in the middle of the day in unknown locations for that very reason... HARSH SUN.... and we have A lot of it here!

  • Stock Photos May 8, 2010 07:46 am

    Love #4 she looks angelic!

  • Alma May 8, 2010 06:38 am

    I shoot backlit all the time. Sure it doesn't work at high noon, but a couple hours either way and you've got some good possibility. I never use a flash, but look for natural reflectors and shoot in the shade too. It works for me.

  • Joel May 8, 2010 06:13 am

    Thanks for the tips, Elizabeth - especially #3. Need to get some reflectors soon.

    About shooting in the sun: I sometimes like to use the opportunity to get creative with flare. I was in Bristol last year and here are some of the photos I took: http://www.shutteria.com/2009/10/seeing-bristol.html
    The last one has some flare in it.

    I also took a nice flare shot in Munich once (last photo): http://www.shutteria.com/2009/07/photo-blog-post-on-kaufingerstrasse.html

  • Kevin Halliburton May 8, 2010 05:31 am

    I'm a huge fan of using .

  • John Little May 8, 2010 05:13 am

    I'm by no stretch of the imagination a pro, but living in Kansas and shooting mostly landscapes I find a Circular Polarizer to be absolutely indispensable. In addition to dropping out some of the unwanted sunlight, if you shooting a blue sky, the CPL may pick up some colors you don't see and that you can enhance during post.

  • Johan May 8, 2010 02:52 am

    I second MeiTeng, except for the sunny country.

    That marine looks like Hawkeye Pierce would look about now :)

  • Jason Collin Photography May 8, 2010 02:49 am

    The top photo in this post uses the kind of light (spectral, various names) I have heard from everyone that should be avoided at all costs.

    I live in Florida, quite the sunny place, and clients cannot always meet at 8am or 7pm, so I have to often deal with the harsh light here.

    This recent senior portrait collection I shot was between 10am and 12pm and using a few of the techniques above, including shooting in shade, using bokeh, but more importantly always using my strobe (SB-600) off camera for every shot:

    http://jasoncollinphotography.com/blog/2010/4/26/florida-senior-portraits-spring-2010-promotion.html

  • MeiTeng May 8, 2010 01:51 am

    Beautiful photos Elizabeth! Thanks for the tips :) I live in a sunny country all year round with rain.

  • Caroline May 8, 2010 01:16 am

    These tips work for shooting people, who you can locate and position in ways that will best utilize whatever light is available. But what about things that are not moveable? I'm thinking, in particular, of when we do travel photography in a sunny locale-- unless the trip is structured around photography, you don't even have much control over what time of day you're photographing a certain place. Some tips on handling such scenarios would be more useful.

  • Todd Eddy May 8, 2010 12:50 am

    Forgot to mention if you don't want to spend any money on a lens hood (aside from a sheet of paper) http://www.lenshoods.co.uk/ has printable lens hoods (that site has been mentioned here several times before). Although keep in mind if you use a white piece of paper it's going to basically wrap the lens in a softbox, not sure what that would do to the final image. Ideally you would print it out and then transfer the pattern to black cardboard or craft foam.

  • Todd Eddy May 8, 2010 12:47 am

    Another big one I think would be using a lens hood. While it's a heated debate over if they should be on to protect the front lens, I think everyone is in agreement that even if it doesn't help it's not going to degrade the image any. For canon people, the L series of lenses come with lens hoods. Non-L means you're on your own. The first lens hood I got was for my 17-55 f/2.8 since flaring was a common issue people reported with it. I still skipped on the $60 canon one and went with a $15 opteka one and it's worked great.

    And another thing to experiment with is using a flash for the catchlights instead of a reflector. Not something to try on your first paid shoot but should practice though. Need to practice because some cameras (canon, especially) will automatically turn down the power of the flash when it realizes you're using it in bright light. Hence why you need to see how your camera handles things before you use it in a shoot.

  • Jen at Cabin Fever May 8, 2010 12:43 am

    Number 1 and 2 definitely...

    Although much of my photography does not deal with people (rather objects and landscapes) lighting plays a huge role in how and what I choose to photograph. Often I underexpose a little if something is in the direct sun or use bracketing/take a couple exposures of the same setting and create an HDR image when the lighting is harsh in some respects and not enough in others. Of course that is harder when you are using live subject... but it CAN be done if you and the subjects are patient.

    My Main Blog:: Cabin Fever in Vermont

    Northeast Kingdom Photography Blog

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