How to photograph in direct sunlight


Photographing in direct sunlight. Mistake or not mistake?

Personally I don't see any plus of having the sun behind my back, no matter if I photograph landscapes or portraits. No doubt it is just easier to take photos having the sun behind a camera. A picture is more saturated, contrasty and there aren't any problems with focusing or with too bright background. 

So, why do I still convenience you to shoot in direct sunlight?

Because photos have unique climate.


How to shoot landscapes in direct sunlight:

  • Use a tripod. If there is strong wind, load your tripod using e.g your bag,
  • Set a manual mode in your camera,
  • Set Live View,
  • Set minimum F/7 aperture to have whole photo sharp, 
  • Setting more that F/11 aperture will give you the interesting effect with sun. Rays of the sun will look much sharper,
  • Set ISO for the lowest value - by default 100,
  • Adjust exposure time to aperture to extract most details as you can,
  • Look at the photo and make decision if you want to extract more details from the sky or background below,
  • Use a self timer (2 or 10 sek),
  • Focus on more or less 2/3 distance between you and the farthest visible point on the horizon (IMPORTANT to not mix up this with 2/3 of the frame),
  • After focusing set up your camera to have a horizon line in 1/3 or 2/3 of your camera frame.
  • Take a picture.


How to portraits in direct sunlight:

  • There might be some serious problems with focusing (depends on the model of your camera),
  • Try to focus always on an eye,
  • If your camera cannot focus hide the sun using your thumb or look for elements that can hide it too, e.g. your model's head. Once you focus you can recompose having the sun back in your frame. Then take a picture,
  • Use the lowest aperture as you can. I use F/1.4,
  • Priority for you is to have nicely lit your model's face. Don't bother if a background is totally burned,
  • Check all the time how your model looks like on your photo,
  • Use maximum zoom to see if a model's face and eye is not blurred,
  • Use your imagination and your model's hair to beautifully burn hair making FIRE,
Destination Wedding Photographer - Michal Brzegowy
  • If you have an assistant or a reflector tripod use a WHITE reflector to bounce the light. A model's face will be nicer lit and you will see beautiful lights in her eyes. It is really important to use only white reflector, because silver and gold are too strong and there will be very unnatural effect.
Destination Wedding Photographer - Michal Brzegowy
  • If you don't have a reflector and an assistant, use natural elements of your environment e.g. big white or grey walls. They work as a huge reflector. They are your best assistant!
  • Shooting portraits in direct sunlight often makes your model looks a little bit pale and without contrast. But there is a really fast way to fix it in any graphic editing program. Just increase contrast and white balance into yellows. 
  • Don't take photos in the afternoon. The sun is too high. Take photos right before sunset (an hour) or right after sunrise,
  • There is a second method of shooting portraits in direct sunlight. Leave your model in deep shadow. She will be too dark, but your photo will be more unique and characteristic. I use both methods, but the decision is up to you. Make experiments! 
Destination Wedding Photographer - Michal Brzegowy


Shooting in direct sunlight - Is it harmful? 

Is is for your and for your came. Avoid looking on the sun too long. Use Live View to photographing in direct sunlight. Let your eyes and your camera rest. Take few shots and turn your camera in another direction. 

At the end I will show you few of my examples. If you have any question just drop me a message on Facebook or Instagram.


Photo examples: