Shooting in Direct Sunlight

Shooting in direct sunlight is just as wrongly feared as witches were in Salem.

Yes, the light is harsh and shadows have defined lines that can cut through the neck of your subject. However, there is a huge upside. Contrast and saturation.

Most people will shoot in the shade or put their subject's back to the sun so they're in complete shadowy goodness and that's completely fine if you want to miss out on amazing colors. Here's why. Your camera reads light, more specifically reflected light. Light from the sun travels a really far way, bounces of your subject and shoots like Han Solo's blaster straight into your camera. If you don't let the sun bounce off of your subject and into your camera, the colors are muted, flat, etc. That's not exactly how it works on the scientific level but it still holds true. If you don't believe me than do this. Take a photo in your house, in the middle of a room with no window light or any light for that matter. Now take a photo with a flash slightly off axis, maybe at 45º. I'll bet a Big Mac that the photo with the flash is much more saturated and full of magical goodness.

So how should you shoot directly in sunlight? That depends, as with all philosophical life questions. However, the general rule I live by is to angle your subject to the sun in such a way that the light contours, or shapes, their abs. Don't base the shooting angle and body position based on the face. Faces can be turned easily, bodies are more important. Don't ask me why, they just are. Just like you don't ask Scooby to stop sniffing Fluffy's behind. That's just the way the world turns. After the body is aligned, the face is where it's at. I can't tell you how to angle the face, it really depends on what you're going for, but pay attention to the nose. The shadow from the nose will dictate the execution and awesomeness of the photo. Maybe you want it short-lit with rembrandt lighting or no shadow at the nose at all, it just depends on your mood. Lastly, look at the shadows under the eyes. Controlling that means the difference between Charlize Theron in Maxim magazine, or Charlize Theron in the movie Monster.

Angling her shoulders and chest slightly towards the ocean gave a nice light that adds definition to her back.

Angling her shoulders and chest slightly towards the ocean gave a nice light that adds definition to her back.

With all Yoda knowledge, you need to know when to apply it. Be Rey, not Kylo Ren. All that jedi and force knowledge, yet Kylo Ren gets beat by someone who discovered the force less than a day ago. How sad. Direct sunlight is not for headshots, portraits, close ups, etc., except when it's a bit more high fashion and it calls for something so edgy, one more step and you're falling off the face of the earth. Use direct sunlight for shots where the entire body, or nearly the entire body is in the frame. Reasoning is that it feels natural. When you have a person who is lit with hard light and all of the background and foreground objects have that same hard lighting, it matches. When you do that close headshot with a blurred background, you can't tell it's hard lighting, but he or she has it, and then it gets confusing and it just doesn't work.

The light on her face is harsh, but so is everything else around her. The lighting matches and belongs on her in this instance.

The light on her face is harsh, but so is everything else around her. The lighting matches and belongs on her in this instance.

So to sums things up. Don't be afraid of the sun. Be afraid of the dark, particularly when watching The Exorcist or Halloween.