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Why you Should be Shooting into the Sun

Spring and summer are great times to be outside that allow you to utilise the light that sun provides us; shooting into the sun is a really creative way of capturing photos. Shooting into the sun produces lens flare which, instead of damaging your photos, can be used creatively for spectacular results.

Avoiding Silhouettes

Silhouettes, whilst fun, are not what shooting into the sun is all about. To really make the most out of a situation, you want to try to shy away from capturing these, focusing instead on more evenly exposing the skin tones of your subject.

Silhouettes are caused by your camera trying to expose the whole photo rather then just your subject; seeing as it’s common to see a lot of sun and sky in these photos, you’re likely to get a silhouette.

To avoid silhouettes, change your metering mode to ‘Spot’.

Spot metering means that your camera will expose whatever is in the centre of the shot, rather then the whole photo. This is likely to lead to blown out, overexposed backgrounds but that’s part of the effect of shooting into the sun.

Have a look at these 2 photos below, the first one was shot on partial metering mode and created a silhouette whereas the second was shot on spot, resulting in a much more evenly exposed subject.

Another great way of avoiding silhouettes is to use an external flash.

Now, a lot of people might find the idea of using a flash in daylight a little odd but it’s actually one of the best times to be using it. Here I used a transmitter so that I could send the flash signal to flash a few feet away at the side. This produces a much more natural effect whilst maintaining some of the natural shadows on the face. Take a look:

Focus

When shooting into the sun, your camera will struggle to focus on the subject, even when you manually select the focal points inside the camera.

I recommend that you use the focal lock by pointing the camera at your subject with the sun hidden behind them to autofocus easily, then move back to how you want the shot composed. Be careful when shooting on a wide aperture though, as the depth of field will be very shallow meaning the slightest movement will send the photo out of focus.

I actually sometimes quite like it when the subject is slightly out of focus, I feel it adds to the effect. Play around and see what works for you. 

Location and Time

Consider what time of year it is and how you can make this relevant to your photos; spring flowers? Autumn leaves? In the set of photos I took, the beautiful rapeseed crops were in bloom and really add to the colour of the photos.

Try to find somewhere a little more interesting than your back garden. Time is one of the most important considerations when composing a shot as it dictates how high the sun is in the sky. Ideally, you want the sun at about head height to really get the best shot as it’ll be easier for your subject to play with it.

Depth of Field

Depth of field is a great way to add another interesting element to your photos.

Here are 2 photos: the first was shot at f/4 and a lot of the rapeseed crop is in focus with very little contrast. Compare that to my second photo that was shot at f/1.4 and you’ll see that, to the left of the subject the crop is in focus, but after the path all you see is a smooth blur of the bokeh. This is a really nice touch and ended up being one of my favourite photos of the set. 

Work with the Surroundings

Now that you know how to get the shot, it’s a good idea to try and experiment a little by playing with the surroundings.

Find items that the sun can shine through and get your subject to move so that their body can work with it. This is a really great way of working basic composition into your photos, improving them greatly. Both of these photos were taken at ISO 250, f/4.5, at 1/250 of a second. 

How to Shoot Into the Sun and Produce Beautiful Lens Flare

A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:

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Josh

Hey I'm Josh, I'm Photographer in Chief here at ExpertPhotography, and I'm in charge of making sure that we provide you with the best content from the most knowledgeable photographers in the world. Enjoy the site :)

  • Alex

    Wow, what a great girl man! Is that your GF? Congratulations!

    Great website BTW

  • Jami

    Great site! Just found your site last night I have been reading and learning for hours Thank You!!

    • Great to hear, thanks!

  • COOL

    thanks man 4 your intrestin trickx………

  • Do you typically use a fill light when shooting into the sun? I would prefer to stay away from that, but will the high ISO make the image to noisy?

    • I don’t typically, no, but it’s something worth trying. High ISO always makes images noisier, but there’s no reason to have it too high in this instance.

  • Jason M.

    I thought direct sunlight going into your camera would damage the camera? How much of the sun should be captured?

  • Maria

    I take pictures for fun- great stress reliever- and have been shooting into the sun. Some pictures have turned out better than expected and with these tips I should be able to get good ones. Very helpful hints. Thank you!

  • Jennifer

    This is so great, I always wondered how people got these sorts of images, seen some great wedding shots using this technique. Would I need to remove my UV filter for this Josh?

    • I did, but it’s up to you really. Experiment!

  • Josh, this is a great photographic technique, and digital makes this sooooooo easy to do. When I shoot into the sun, I tend to play around with my color temperature (anywhere between 5600 K and 9000 K), all with the goal of imparting a golden hour-ish tone to my shots.

  • OrkoMeesro

    <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaaaaarko/9234286462/” title=”DSC_0416 by /iewFinder, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7321/9234286462_c17d8623f2.jpg” width=”500″ height=”333″ alt=”DSC_0416″></a>

    when ever i want to shoot the setting sun i end up getting a picture like this.I want to capture the sunwhich isround in shape not like this.please advise.

  • Suné

    Thanks Josh. It was really helpful. In just a couple of hours I must do a shoot for a couple in open fields with the sun in backgroup. This helps a lot.

  • Iris Cheran

    Nice way of mixing attention for readers! hehe