If you're a shutterbug like me, and you enjoy taking photos outdoors, you will often find yourself in direct sunlight.
Other than protecting yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, and by applying sunscreen every two hours, there is one more thing you can do. And it's good for your photos and you--
Take pictures in early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight, including UV light, is less intense.
When the sun intensity peaks around noon, and you shoot some pictures, you're likely to see harsh dark shadows and very bright highlights. These translate into light and dark areas in your photos and an absence of detail.
"The worst possible lighting for people portraits is direct sunlight at high noon," says the editors of Photographic Magazine in Complete Idiot's Guide to Photography Like a Pro.
Besides, if your subject is facing the sun, he or she will undoubtedly be squinting, and the direct sunlight can accentuate wrinkles. On the other hand, if you shoot toward the sun, your subject in your photos may be too dark if you focus on bright areas or too light if you focus on dark areas.
The camera compensates for high contrast between light and dark by underexposing or overexposing the film in an attempt to achieve balance between the light and the dark areas.
But one solution is to use flash-fill or reflective (card) fill to reduce the contrast of your subject's face, as well as to remove unattractive, deep shadows.
Otherwise, take your photos in the morning before 10 a.m. or wait until later in the day after 4 p.m., when sunlight is less intense and you're less likely to get a sunburn and skin damage.
In the early morning and late afternoon, sunlight has to pass through more atmosphere. Consequently, the blue light is scattered, leaving longer wavelengths, such as red and orange, which are not as easily scattered.
When the sun is low in the sky, you'll be able to capture catch lights in your subjects' eyes as they look toward the direction of the sun. There will be more ambient (scattered) light and less contrast between light and dark.
The result will be more facial detail. And take your people portraits from different camera angles and at different times, from early to mid-morning and then from late afternoon until sunset. Experiment.
However, please don't look through your camera at the sun, nor should your model look directly at the sun.
About The Author
Diana Clarke is a teacher, photographer and freelance writer.
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