How to Shoot in Full Sun

You have probably heard the term "magic hour" or "golden hour" at some point when trying to decide the best time to take photos. The golden hour is that perfect time right around sunrise and sunset when everything glows, skins looks soft, there is enough light to capture the image, but no harsh shadows or blow out highlights. Ask almost any photographer, and this is the ideal time to shoot on most occasions.

But what do you do when you don't have the leisure to wait around for 7:55 at night or wake up before dawn to be ready for sunrise photos? (Yes, during the summer "magic hour" is 7:50-9:00pm!)

Memorial Day weekend always offers great photo ops - on a boat, in a new swimsuit, at a barbecue with friends - and because the days are so long, we have hours and hours of harsh mid-afternoon lighting. 

Here are a few tips for both SLR users and iPhone photographers on how to get great photos this weekend without waiting for sunset to do it! 

1. Find a shady spot

Under an awning, next to a building, or the first floor of a party barge... finding full shade during the mid-afternoon light makes photos pop, especially if the subject is facing the light. This offers even lighting, but lots of it, and is probably one of my favorite ways to shoot when it's sunny. 

One Small Blonde | You can tell how bright it was outside, but we found a strip of sidewalk that was completely shaded from the building. The sun was in front of Brooke, so she was facing the light, making a clear, evenly-lit photo

One Small Blonde | You can tell how bright it was outside, but we found a strip of sidewalk that was completely shaded from the building. The sun was in front of Brooke, so she was facing the light, making a clear, evenly-lit photo

2. Find even lighting in the sun

This can be a little trickier than shooting in full shade, but if it's 4:00 or 5:00 when the sun has started to cast longer shadows, face directly toward the sun, and that should offer even lighting. If you're shooting on a DSLR, this might be a good time to shoot on Auto so you don't end up with an over-exposed photo. With an iPhone, make sure you tap the focal point on the brightest spot ON your subject. (Here is an example of how to shoot in full sun on my BASICS post

Loubies and Lulu | This was taken at about 10am - I loved how the colors popped in the sun, so I stood exactly in the direction of the sun, and photographed Andrea so she was in full sun. You can see that her shadow is directly behind her - something to look for when trying to get a photo facing the sun.

Loubies and Lulu | This was taken at about 10am - I loved how the colors popped in the sun, so I stood exactly in the direction of the sun, and photographed Andrea so she was in full sun. You can see that her shadow is directly behind her - something to look for when trying to get a photo facing the sun.

2. Shoot with backlighting

This would apply in the later afternoon, or in a shady spot with the sun peaking through behind you. Find your subject's shadow on the ground, and have him or her face it. This will put the sun directly behind the subject. This is also how the "light and airy" photos are taken during magic hour. 

One Small Blonde | You can see the sun peaking out from behind the building, creating a sunny glow on Brooke. 

One Small Blonde | You can see the sun peaking out from behind the building, creating a sunny glow on Brooke. 

Fashion Jackson | The sunlight was shining harshly from the left side of the image, and Amy's shadow is cast opposite - on the right. I took it from this angle because we wanted this black in the background, but I had her face away from the sun (and towards her shadow) so her face and most of her body would be evenly lit. I could have taken it with her standing in the same place, but turned to face her shadow, and I would have stood facing the sun. This would have created more of a glow around her head and body from the sunlight behind her. 

Fashion Jackson | The sunlight was shining harshly from the left side of the image, and Amy's shadow is cast opposite - on the right. I took it from this angle because we wanted this black in the background, but I had her face away from the sun (and towards her shadow) so her face and most of her body would be evenly lit. I could have taken it with her standing in the same place, but turned to face her shadow, and I would have stood facing the sun. This would have created more of a glow around her head and body from the sunlight behind her. 

Don't be afraid to play around with lighting and settings this weekend! We have a three-day weekend and that's a great opportunity to go out and practice! Sometimes "wrong" photos turn out to be some of our favorites, so don't be discouraged if they aren't turning out exactly how you envision them. Take a couple days and look back again and you might love them even more. 

For uploading photos real-time, I recommend editing on your phone with Snapseed and VSCO. Snapseed is a great app for editing brightness, saturation, clarity, etc; and VSCO has tons of great filters where you can adjust the amount of filter you add to a photo, which I love because sometimes you don't need to change the photo all that much. 

AND MY MEMORIAL DAY CHALLENGE TO EVERYONE! PLEASE

 

Please.

 

Do not facetune yourself. Don't make your eyes clearer or your waist smaller. You are perfect. Yes, PERFECT. Just the way you are. 

*Ideal lighting* - first floor of a two-story party barge circa 2013, in all our college-age red-solo-cup-toting glory. 

*Ideal lighting* - first floor of a two-story party barge circa 2013, in all our college-age red-solo-cup-toting glory.