How to Take Photos in Sunlight

4 Creative Tips To Taking Photos In The Sun

Written by Tim on . Posted in Lighting

This short and quick article will cover some of the best ways to take advantage of harsh, direct sun, so that the next time you are faced with shooting in the sun, you’ll be armed with creative ideas on how to overcome the harsh sunlight.

Please note that the following photos are not mine, but are those of fellow photographers who gave permission to use their photos under the Creative Commons License.  So, I’ll be using them as creative examples on how to take photos in the sun.

1. Shadows For Design

4 Creative Tips To Taking Photos In The Sun

Keep your eyes open and look for shadows that can create a dynamic, striking design and composition. Especially for street photography. For example, take a look at a photographer who goes by the name of “C o o p s” on Flickr.  He’s a amazing photographer who uses the direct sun and it’s shadows to create striking compositions in photos, as in the photo shown above.  This is a perfect example of using high contrasting light and shadows to create a composition that tells a story to the viewer; especially once you put the title “Gulp” on the photo.

When exposing for a photo such as this, expose for the highlights to keep the shadows dark by using a faster shutter speed, smaller aperture or both.


2. Creative Sun Flares

4 Creative Tips To Taking Photos In The Sun

Sun flares (or lens flares) are usually avoided in photos.  For good reasons, too.  They are usually distracting and annoying, taking the viewers eye away from the main subject.  But, what if the main subject WAS the sun flare?

You can do some pretty neat things when taking photos in the sun.  With a little thought, you can take an awesome photo like the one above, shot by photographer and Flickr user “seier+seier“.

A few tips for getting nice sun flares would be to use a very small aperture, from anywhere between f/16 to f/22, because the smaller aperture will create the nice spikes/points of light. You should also use a fast shutter speed so you don’t overexpose and blowout the sun.


3. High Contrast Black and White

4 Creative Tips To Taking Photos In The Sun

High contrast is not hard to achieve when shooting in direct sunlight.  The sun will give off harsh, dark shadows creating high contrast between light and dark.  In the example photo above, shot by photographer “pedrosimoes7” on Flickr, this image shows how one can create a memorable shot even in harsh, direct sun by bumping up the contrast and converting the photo to black and white.  What also helps make this image appealing is the negative space in the photo, and how the rule of thirds subconsciously plays into effect.

Here is some basic EXIF info, taken from the photo on Flickr, to better help understand how this photo was exposed:

  • Camera: Nikon D2X
  • Exposure: 0.003 sec (1/350)
  • Aperture: f/9.5
  • Focal Length: 155 mm
  • ISO Speed: 200
  • Exposure Bias: 0/6 EV


4. Perfect Silhouettes

4 Creative Tips To Taking Photos In The Sun

With the right perspective and angle, you can create perfect silhouettes, like the one above.  The photographer, whose Flickr user name is “Alexindigo“, is either very good at what he does or he just got lucky, because not only did he capture a perfectly exposed silhouette, he got a great action shot along with it!

To capture a photo like this, you must use a very fast shutter speed and expose the photo so the sky is not too bright, but more on the darker side.  You must also make sure the subject is in the path of the light, or sun in this case, as to not cause any unwanted lens flare.  Just take a look at the EXIF info for this photo to better help understand the exposure settings:

  • Camera Canon: EOS 20D
  • Exposure: 1/8000 sec
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Focal Length: 17 mm
  • ISO Speed: 100
  • Exposure Bias: 1/3 EV


A Quick Note

These tips are not very technical, I know, but I have always been one to lean towards the creative side of photography.  I believe, in my humble opinion, that learning the technicalities of photography are more easily learned along the way than the creative side, and therefore this article was written in that manner; being more creative.

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