The sun is out, the sky is blue

There’s not a cloud to spoil the view. But it’s raining in my heart. Because I’m an emotional, irrational man, and I care about your photography. And because bright sunshine can easily ruin photographs… On the positive side, noon photograph problems can be easy to fix. So if you’re heading out with your camera in the summer sun, bear these thoughts in mind.
(Please ignore the [low] quality of the accompanying images - they are unedited, straight out of camera photohgraphs to illustrate my points!)

Bleach boys

Strong midday sun might give a wonderful azure sky, but it can also suck the life out of other colours (such as flower petals, buildings). You might be able to rescue some of this in post-production, or by underexposing a little (⅔ of one stop would be a good place to start), but your best bet would be to get up earlier or stay out later. At the very least, don’t shoot into the sun if you want rich colours (but definitely do so if you want lens flare and the bleached look)!

 Left: shooting into the sun results in a bleached image; right: turn around and voila - vivid colours

Left: shooting into the sun results in a bleached image; right: turn around and voila - vivid colours

Squint Eastwood

Do you remember the great old tip people gave you when shooting people in the sun? To have the sun over your shoulder, so it’s behind you?

Well, that makes it easy to expose. But it makes your pictures crap. Oh, how your subjects must love that shot you have of them squinting. Because you made them stare at the sun. To make your life easier.

 Yours truly, un-retouched (see, I'm not vain), in a portrait shot into the sun, using flash. On a cheap point-and-shoot camera.

Yours truly, un-retouched (see, I'm not vain), in a portrait shot into the sun, using flash. On a cheap point-and-shoot camera.

Here’s how to fix that. Put the sun behind your subject. Now they are beautifully backlit. But your camera is confused. If you take a shot now, your camera will probably get the exposure wrong (for what you want), and your subject’s face will be dark. All you have to do to fix this is turn on your flash. Voila! Backlit subject, your flash filling in the details. If you want to take it up a notch (and your camera allows you), lower the power of your flash by a stop or two. An even nicer shot.

And if you don’t have a flash? Overexpose by a stop or so. Your background might be blown out (i.e. little detail because it’s too white), but your subject will be perfect. (If you don’t know how to over- or underexpose, I’m afraid you’re going to have to rtfm. Or play around until you find the dial / menu with + in one direction and - in the other…)

Slim Shady

Assuming you aren’t able to use the best soft, directional light (which, for the sake of argument, we’ll assume is the golden hour, in the hour after dawn and the hour before dusk) - I’m not planning on getting up for 04:48 tomorrow morning. Nor keeping the kids up until 21:12 for a quick portrait - then you’re going to have to live with harsh light and hard shadows.

Or, you could find some shade and shoot there at noon instead. It solves the problems above and is less of a melanoma risk… (But isn’t much use in the middle of a field. Or on the beach…) Just remember, wear sunscreen

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