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Tips for Shooting in the Sun

Monday, June 14th, 2010 by | Filed Under: Digital Photography

Without light, viewing of images is impossible. Similarly, without light, photography cannot work as well as it should. When it comes to taking the perfect photograph, the right lighting is everything. For the best and most luminescent images, the most suitable time to snap is just after daybreak or just before sundown. Light at these times of day, the golden hours as they are known in the photography world, is generally more vivid and less harsh due to their low angles. The shadows it casts on the subject of the photograph will be instantly more flattering and make a more interesting picture. When the light is more direct during the day, colors can be distorted and images can appear flat and dull. Now, is there a way to improve this or work around this? Here are some handy tips to help you work around that glare.


Watch the meter
In the golden hours, when the rays of the sun lie parallel to the curve of the earth, the angle at which they hit your lens is more lateral. This makes the light and dark elements closer together when you photograph them. Therefore, they are easier to meter. This is not the case when the sun is directly overhead. The light is harsher and the tones are more widely spread out. To overcome this, don’t rely on the camera’s automatic meter settings -they must be played around with and experimented on. By doing this, the tones and shades will be more vivid and smooth.


Go close up
Cameras, like people, are not designed to squint, and unless it is a camera model with a super powerful zoom, there is little point trying to make it take accurate shots of images where the focus is too far away. The best way to combat glare or lack of focus in situations like this is to make sure the image is close up, but also that there is plenty of shade to create contrast. The metering must also be adjusted in cases like this. Although the human eye of the photographer may not initially notice the light difference, the camera will. So focus, use shade and make sure the background isn’t too dull or distracting.


Grab an umbrella
If there is no shade around, no trees or buildings under which the photographer can take that crucial snap from, shade must be made artificially to ensure the best quality. Carry an umbrella that can diffuse the light as well as keep off the obvious glare of the sun. This is often done in professional studio work to soften the lighting on a model. However, it is a trick that can be easily applied to any shot. The crucial point about the umbrella is that it will slow down the shoot and encourage a better and more thought out composition. Use a tripod either to hold the umbrella or the camera. It is often better to position the umbrella and the focal point or model so that the photographer can change his angles with a sense of freedom. Why? Because this will enable you to compose a more dynamic shot.


Watch your film speed settings
The film speed and the detection of light that the camera has are very important. This is what we call the ‘ISO’ setting. It is very easy to set the ISO to a mid range setting and forget about it. However, this will not allow the photographer to capture shots at their absolute best. Photographers should familiarise themselves with their ISO settings and then try and play around with them to see which speed suits their style of shooting. It is best not to raise the setting to high. Otherwise, the camera’s capabilities may be exceeded, the shutter speed settings will be confused and the photograph will be seriously washed out and insipid. However, this shouldn’t daunt the photographer.


Experimentation should be encouraged, and it may come about that some playing around with a high ISO setting in the shadows under the mid-day sun will produce some outstanding shots, which contain incredible amounts of detail. Don’t allow the setting to remain high once light is reintroduced into the frame, however, otherwise overexposure of the focal point will be the predominating feature in your following shots.

In essence, the golden hours around dusk or dawn are the optimal times for capturing that perfect shot with the most brilliant natural and exuberant light. So as much as sticking to the manual and following the rules is advised, don’t be too scared to break out and follow your instincts once in a while. It may just be the time that the perfect Kodak moment is captured.

~Zahid Javali

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