Here are some fun and interesting techniques for capturing great images in full sun

If you ask any photographer the worst possible time to take photos, it’s undoubtedly when the sun is at its highest – in the hours around midday. So should you simply pack up the camera and go home or is there a way to capture good images even when the light is far from ideal? Luckily, you can capture great images any time if you know how to make the most of the situation. In this column I’ll show you how to avoid the worst features of harsh sun still capture great images.

What is wrong with full sun?

Around the middle of the day the sun is overhead and it is quite bright and the light it throws is harsh and not soft or full of color as it is at sunrise and sunset. When it is overhead the sun throws strong shadows so if somebody is standing in full sun it is the top of their head that is well lit and their face will be in shadow. This is not an ideal time to take a person’s portrait but it can be done, and I’ll show you how.

You will face a similar problem if you are travelling and if your once in a lifetime opportunity to photograph something like the Eiffel Tower is at midday. If you’re to get a shot that you’ll be proud of you’ll need to be a little creative in how you capture the image. The good news is that with a little imagination and effort you might just go home with photos that are far superior to those that you might get in other circumstances.

Counteract the light – Find Some Shade

When you’re shooting a portrait in full sun there are a few things you can do to soften the light. One is to move the person into a shady situation – this removes them from the harsh light so you reduce the high contrast between light and shadow to something more subtle.

If you do this, make sure that the person is in full shadow and set your camera’s white balance mode to Shade if you are under trees or to Cloudy if you are in the shade of a building to give the portrait a warmer look. In fact, even when you are shooting your subject in full sun you will find the light will be quite cool and blue and your photos will benefit from being warmed up. The easiest way to do this is to select Cloudy as your White Balance setting. If you are capturing in a raw format you can adjust this in post processing, if desired.

Counteract the light – Use The Fill Flash

A second option is to fire the flash or fill flash on your camera to add light to the person’s face so you are lighting the areas that are in deep shadow. If you are doing this, make sure to check the image after you have captured it to make sure that you haven’t positioned yourself so close to your subject that the flash is over brightening their face.

There is a sweet spot between too much flash – which will bounce off your subject’s face leaving it bright and over lit – and too little flash which will leave the shadows too dark. If the flash is too much, take a few steps backwards and try again – if it is too little, then move a little closer to your subject.

You may also find that your camera has a feature for adjusting the flash so it fires at less than 100 percent intensity which can help reduce the over-brightening effect of too much flash.

Helen Bradley