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Making the Most of Sunshine!

Tips for taking photos in bright sunlight


Now that summer is here we can look forward to some lovely long, hot days with plenty of sunshine. Gorgeous! But although bright sunlight lifts our spirits and feels so good for us in many ways, it can cause its own special problems for photography. So how can we make the best use of the summer sunshine?

single tree, tuscany

When the sun is directly overhead, it’s quite unflattering to most photographic subjects, as it creates harsh contrast between light and shadow without revealing any shape or form. Try to do your photography early or late in the day, when the sun is lower in the sky. This can give a lovely three dimensional effect in a photograph, especially when the light is coming from the side, as it lights one side of a subject while the other side falls into shadow. With landscapes this will generally be a bonus; with portraits or close ups you may want to use a reflector or fill in flash to lighten the shadowed side.

Beware of flare on bright days – this is caused when the sun falls on the front element of your lens, and results in image degradation. To avoid this, use a lens hood, shade your lens with your hand, or position yourself so that you’re standing in the shade to take the photo.

One other important thing to bear in mind is the effect of bright sunlight on colour. Soft, pastel colours will tend to appear washed out in harsh light – see my blog on 20 June. So look instead for saturated colours which can benefit from the brighter light to bring out their full impact. Vibrant, saturated colours can appear at their strongest in sunlight, and you can increase the impact by using a polarising filter to saturate the colours even more. For maximum polarisation, try to position yourself so that the sun is coming from the side.

If you’d like to learn more about using colour and light, you might want to consider taking our course with Phil Malpas, “A Master Class in Light & Colour”.

Geoff Harris

I am a photography journalist and photographer and currently work as the Deputy Editor of Amateur Photographer (AP) the oldest weekly photographic magazine in the world. Before that I served as the editor of Digital Camera, Britain's best-selling photography magazine, for five years. During my time as editor it became the UK's top selling photo monthly and won Print Publication of the Year at the 2013 British Media Awards. As well as being lucky enough to get paid to write about photography, I've been fortunate to interview some of the greatest photographers in the world, including Elliott Erwitt, Don McCullin, Martin Parr, Terry O'Neill, Steve McCurry and the late Mary Ellen Mark. This has been a wonderful learning experience and very influential on my photography. Beyond writing, I am a professional portrait, travel and documentary photographer, and reached the finals of the 2016 Pink Lady Food Photographer of the Year competition. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society and hope to take my Associateship whenever I can find the time.

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