Jun 8

Photography Talk: The Sun

2010 at 4:10 pm   |   by Janelle Bradshaw Filed under Fun & Encouragement | Photography

(I’m done interrupting myself—for the present—and today we’re back to photography talk for everyone.)

Over the past couple of years, I’ve grown to appreciate the sun and its usefulness in photography. I know, I should have been more grateful before, but it’s easy to take that big fireball for granted. Used correctly, though, it can take an ordinary scene and turn it into something extraordinary.

There are two times during the day when the sun is the photographer’s best friend: morning and evening. That time of day when the sun is lower in the sky and is that glorious golden color—that’s when you want to be outside with your camera.

Now this time changes throughout the year as the seasons change and some seasons make the morning more convenient while others lend themselves to shooting in the evening.

The sun is rising here at around 5:45 in the morning right now so I’m currently taking advantage of the evening sun. My family is used to doing crazy things for my camera, but playing outside at 6 a.m. would definitely be pushing it.

Learning to use the sun to your advantage in photography takes practice. I used to hide from the sun when taking pictures outside. I looked for the nearest shade and ran for its safety. But not anymore! I’m forcing myself to be more willing to make mistakes, so that I can learn how to use the sun to my advantage. I still don’t know what I’m doing half the time, but that’s all part of the fun.

As a general rule of thumb (‘cause there are lots of ways to do this depending on your desired effect) you want the sun behind your subject at an angle. (This is called backlight, by the way.) If the sun is behind you, your subject is probably going to have harsh shadows on their face, not to mention they will be squinting. Not so good.

Try and position your subject so that you see their hair light up from the sun—almost like their hair is glowing. It usually helps if there are some nearby trees or other large objects in which the sun can filter through.

When using the sun like this, you will have to beware of haze (this can also be used to your advantage—but that’s for another time). You can use a lens hood to help eliminate haze. Or, if you are like me, you can hold your hand above your lens. This usually results in part of my hand making its way into half my shots. Oh well.

Okay, there is tons more I could say about this, but this post is getting long! I stopped reading a few paragraphs back!

Here are a few examples of shooting in the golden hours of morning and evening, to give you some visuals. We will revisit this topic again to talk more about exposure and techy stuff related to shooting with the sun. But until then, the best thing you can do is get out there and practice.