Don't Be Afraid Of The Sun - But Use Sunblock- Tips For Shooting In Full Sun

As photographers we do more than just click a button. I know that will blow many people's minds. Besides all the things that we do in order to keep our business afloat, we are also "readers of light." Meaning that we use what we have to our advantage, we shape it and mold it to create images.

Many photographers, myself included, loath bright sunny days, but rejoice when we have a nice overcast sky, one that acts as a natural diffuser. There have been many a wedding day when I have received a text from a bride who is so excited that it is bright and sunny., or sad that it is overcast. When in the first text my heart sinks knowing the the hash shadows that are to come, and in the second, my heart leaps out of my chest knowing I can shoot wherever I want and will have no shadows.

Many times we try to find shade so that we don't have to deal with the harshness of the sun. When you shoot in the sun your shadows are much harsher, your colors are more saturated, and your highlights are blown out. The above photo is a SOOC (Straight out of Camera) from a styled shoot I had a few weeks ago. 

When I woke up in the morning, I knew that we were going to have a bright, super-sunny, Colorado day. It is not often that you get a nice overcast day when you live in Colorado, but I was ready to face the challenge. 

As a wedding photographer you don't always have the light, the weather, the subject, or church coordinator on your side, so you have to learn how to work with all of them. So here are a few tips for shooting in bright light. A lot of these involve knowing how your camera works in the post processing like how much or your shadows and highlights can you recover. 

Shoot as Close as Possible

When you get close you block out a lot of other elements that can cause issues and may be distracting. Below is a before and after of a close up shot. I use the Nikon D750 and the sensor in that camera is amazing so I underexposed her face in oder to not blow out the highlights. Once the highlights are gone, you cannot get them back. 

Expose for the highlights

When shooting digital you want to expose for the highlights. (This is a good rule and a personal preference, it may also depend on your subject). Once the highlights are gone on a digital image you cannot recover them, but you can recover shadows. 

For the above image I exposed for the sky, I wanted to keep the texture of the clouds and the blue. I also wanted to keep the texture of the mountains in order to have a recognizable location. I knew that I would be able to recover the shadow in her eyes so i was not worried about loosing that. 

Again I exposed for the sky and mountains in the above shot. I also was shooting with a 24mm lens as I wanted to get the whole view. When shooting Colorado weddings, it is a pretty sure bet that you are going to have sun, so knowing how to approach it is key. 

Backlight whenever possible

Nearly all the images in this post are backlit. Meaning that the main source of light is coming from behind the model. While this casts the face in shadow, it gives the hair and any other elements (Flowers/dress/veil) a nice glow. Backlighting is one of my favorite lighting techniques. I use it with sunsets, midday light, and off camera flash at night (Read that blog here). 

When Backlighting your subjects be aware of a couple things. Lens flare and the shadows. Remember when I said that once the highlights are gone, they are unrecoverable? I hope so cuz it was only a few sentences ago. But an issue that I use to run into before I knew how to control it was that my lens flare would cause an issue on my subject. Sometimes the flare lands on the persons face and it is really hard to remove. The other issue is just the overall shadows and highlights in the image. Just be aware of them. 

Be aware of how the ground reflects light

For the above shot we were standing on a dirt trail. While she was in the shade the light was reflecting on her. No I did not use a reflector for this shot. It is all natural light. If you are shooting near water or on the beach those elements act as natural reflectors and need to be balanced when shooting. 

Again a huge thanks to these vendor for helping and to Kaysie for modeling


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