The seasoned photographers among you will know that it’s not all roses when it comes to taking photos outdoors. There’s one thing which can make a photographer’s life particularly difficult when shooting outdoors: bright sunlight.
Dark shadows, patchy lighting on a subject, high contrast, and lens ‘flare’ (the rings which appear in a line across an image). These are just a few of the problems that direct sunlight can cause, especially when taking pictures of people. Here at Fat Lama, we were having this very problem, so we decided to find out what we could do to improve our photos (and yours) when taking pictures outside. We were pleased to find out that there’s plenty to be done! We’ve divided our findings between non-technical, ‘off-camera’ solutions and more technical tips: those which will involve digging around in your camera settings.
1. Use A Lens Hood
As with many things in life, duct tape and cardboard can help. By making a circular guard to go around your lens, you’ll be able to keep sunlight from hitting the lens directly. This will work to reduce lens flare. Of course, if you’ve got a lens hood already then there’s no need to get all Blue Peter on your camera.
2. Change The Angle
Similarly, moving yourself and changing the angle at which you take the photo will allow you to alter how light hits the subject. Crouching or using a stepladder are probably the easiest ways to do this.
3. Wait For The Right Moment
Unless you’re in a hurry, just wait. Waiting until the sun goes behind a cloud or starts to set will often deal with most of the problem. Just make sure that you pick a moment when there’ll be enough cloud for you to take the picture.
4. Move Into The Shade
Not every way of solving the problem is a complicated or technical. One easy way to remove the problem of direct sunlight is as simple as just moving into the shade. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? By moving your subject into the shade, if possible, light will be distributed more evenly.
5. Change The Type Of Picture
If you can’t beat them, join them. If the sun isn’t letting you get your picture to be just as you want it then why not try change your picture completely. A long distance, wide angle shot won’t be affected nearly as much by bright sunlight as a close up will. Similarly, you could try embracing the shadow and shooting from behind your subject so that they are silhouetted against the light. It will look effective and will make your life much easier!
Try using fill-flash. True to its name, this setting uses your camera’s flash to fill in the areas which the naturally occurring sunlight misses. This will hopefully reduce the amount of dark shadows appearing on your subject, from under their hat for example.
Scrimming is the process whereby you diffuse bright light using a piece of material. If you put that material between the light source and subject you’ll soften the light and reduce glare and dark shadows.
Try using a filter. The polarising filter and the neutral density filters will lessen the amount of light getting to your camera. This will lessen reflections and keep the colours more accurate.
4. A Last Resort
If you’ve tried everything and still can’t seem to get the picture you want then hopefully it’ll be comforting to know that many of the problems that direct sunlight can cause can be remedied with little effort on Photoshop. Just make sure you don’t get too carried away.
If you’re eager to try out some of these tips but haven’t got access to good enough gear, why not explore camera rental or check out our lenses for hire? If you’re looking for camera hire in London and around the UK, Fat Lama have got you covered. We’ve found there’s no way better to enjoy our lunch breaks amidst the hustle and bustle of London when the sun is shining, than to hire a camera and lens and get snapping!