Photo Tips for Beginners: Lighting With the Sun

Portrait photography lighting using the sun
Portrait photography lighting using the sun | Source

How to shoot photos in different light

When I first became a photographer, the number one issue I had when I took pictures of people was lighting. In fact, I think it is fair to say that lighting is a key ingredient to all photos, kind of like flour is to bread.

Why is light so important in photography?

1. Light creates mood

2. Light exposes or hides

3. Light draws our eye to the subject

4. Light creates depth


Lighting outdoors

Taking photos outdoors means you have little control over your main light source - the sun. If the day is sunny and bright, or if it's cloudy and gray, each will have an affect on your photos.

Taking pictures in the sun

Here are common problems you will have taking pictures on bright sunny days:

1. Deep shadows on your subject

2. Bright white, washed out places on your picture where details are lost

3. Random sun flares in your photo

Solutions to taking pictures in the sun:

1. To avoid deep shadows, the subject needs to have a light source aimed at them. This is one trick I use to avoid deep shadows. Have your subject stand with the sun at her back to avoid eye squint, and use your flash to brighten her face.

2. On bright sunny days, use your camera's control to set your exposure to "sun." Most point-and-shoot digital cameras have a sun icon. If your pictures still turn out bright, try placing a polarizing filter over the lens as you shoot. A pair of sunglasses held over the lens acts as a polarizing filter. Just make sure it is clean and free of scratches.

3. Sun flares happen when the sun hits the glass of your lens. It is similar to a prism hanging in a window catching the sun. To avoid this, lower your camera so that it isn't angled up towards the sky. You can also have the sun at your back. Sometimes you may still get a sun streak in your photo if the sun is bouncing and reflecting off something (water, glass, etc.) you are shooting. Try different angles to get rid of the streak.

Taking great pictures using the sun

The sun can give great lighting affects when used right. Next time you are taking a portrait of someone on a bright sunny day, pay attention to how the light hits their face (especially eyes) and hair. You can have beautiful affects on your subject by allowing the sun to highlight these features.

When the sun is at an angle to the subject, you will get part of their face in shadow and part in bright light. This effect creates depth, interest, and mood on your subject. The deeper the shadow, the greater the depth, and the more contrast of light and dark, the greater the moodiness.

Sunlight shining on hair is something professional photographers aim for. We often mimic this in the studio by placing a light high and behind our subject so light captures the shine and texture in a person's hair.

Next time you are taking outdoor portraits, have the subject stand with the sun coming from their side. This will allow you to play with the highlights and shadows.

Keeping these few tricks in mind will help you the next time you are out on a bright sunny day and want to take pictures to capture the moment.

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Comments 4 comments

Tracy711 profile image

Tracy711 4 years ago

Hello Bayareagreatthing, I loved this hub I love taking pics but I have many of the issues above and indoors sometimes I get a red color in front of my subject don't know what that is..but thank you for this very intersting and informative hub. I'm sure all the advice will come in handy..have a blessed day :o))


bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 4 years ago from Bay Area California Author

Thanks Tracy for stopping by. The red color may be light reflections hitting the lens. Turn to the side a little and see if it clears up.


Tracy711 profile image

Tracy711 4 years ago

thank you I will try that and have a blessed day :o))


bayareagreatthing profile image

bayareagreatthing 4 years ago from Bay Area California Author

You're welcome Tracy! Above all else, just have fun shooting!!

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