How To: Photograph During Bright Midday Sun

To add punch and power to this stitched, panoramic portrait of a small-town Texas police squad, Patrick Cavan Brown committed what is generally considered a lighting faux pas: He shot with the bright midday sun high and almost dead-center.

How-To-Lighting-March-Polic

“I loved the way it looked and was determined to build my photograph around it,” explains the Asheville, NC-based pro photographer. “Not only is the sun beautiful, but it adds spectacular depth.”

Okay, we thought, but what about the deadly problems caused by shooting directly into the sun, such as washedout and desaturated color, missing-in-action subject detail, and comet-shaped lens aberrations? Brown has the right techniques—and equipment—to overcome those pitfalls:

Balancing sun- and strobe light.

“I knew when I saw the shadows created by full sunlight, that if I wanted to fill them in with my Canon Speedlites, the strobes would need to be powerful, plentiful, and close,” says Brown.

how-to-lighting-march-gear2

He used the four Speedlites direct and undiffused at or near their maximum power settings, so their specular effect would mimic sunlight. Their output was bright enough that the photographer could underexpose the scene by 2 stops, adding weight to the sky and shadows.

Controlling flare with careful lens selection.

Aiming a lens directly into the sun creates image-degrading flare that essentially fogs the sensor, eroding sharpness and detail. It can also cause comatic aberration (coma)—a comet-shaped flaring along the image edges. Because of their design and special coatings, some lenses are better at controlling flare and coma.

Brown started with a Canon 24–70mm f/2.8L lens for the four vertical images that went into this panorama. “That lens handled flare terribly, though, so I switched to my much older Canon 17–35mm f/2.8L, which proved far superior,” he recalls.

how-to-lighting-march-gear

Polarizing to boost color and sharpness.

“The circular polarizing filter helped me shoot into the sun by darkening and maintaining color in the sky and detail in the clouds,” he says. “But it also acted as a neutraldensity filter, cutting light transmission through to the image sensor by 2 full stops.”

The dimming effect helped Brown capture a sharper photo, too. The reason? Instead of shooting at or near the minimum aperture on his lens, which introduces softness due to diffraction, he could set f/11—the sharpest aperture on his lens.

how-to-lighting-march

The diminished light transmission also let the photographer crank up his Speedlites to their maximum output without blowing out highlights, making it easier for him to balance strobe and bright sunlight.

 

Categories:

Topic Filter: Commercial / Landscape / Portrait / Stock / What's Hot

Related Tutorials

Interviews

Martin Lawrence

After many years as a keen amateur photographer, I decided to start a small landscape photography business called Lakescenes which I ran alongside my main job as an IT Manager. As business increased, I found myself working long, but rewarding, hours just to keep up […]

Read More

Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard is a naturalist, nature photographer and videographer who says his favorite location is the one he is in at any time. He is the author/photographer of over 40 books, as well as a well-known speaker and workshop leader, and a Fellow with the […]

Read More

Gary Hart

Gary Hart has photographed California’s natural beauty for over 30 years. Gary’s photos and writing have appeared in many publications, most recently Outdoor Photographer and Sierra Heritage magazines. You’ll also find his images in greeting cards, postcards, calendars, and many galleries and private collections throughout the world.

Read More

Jaroslav Wieczorkiewicz

Originally from Poland, based in London UK, Jaroslav has background in Fine Arts, degree in Architecture, and wide array of experience. Being an Architect taught him how to be resourceful and to solve complex problems with simple, yet innovative solutions. Constant passion for graphic & […]

Read More

What's Hot

Beauty Lighting for Stills and Video

Trying New Things I definitely fall into the category of photographers who get bored doing the same thing over and over again. Although I am often hired to shoot a style that my clients see on my website or portfolio, or shoot images for a […]

Click to Watch

Taking Control of Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness

Taking Control of Contrast, Saturation and Sharpness is at the very heart of photography. When you shoot a photo on your camera one of two things happen. Either the camera saves the image as a Raw file or as a Jpeg. The fundamental difference between […]

Read More

Take your best ever Christmas photos

While the packed supermarkets, heaving shopping malls and congested traffic networks can try the patience of even the biggest Christmas fan, there is no doubt that this is a really magical time of year for the family photographer. Here are five ways to get your […]

Read More