How to Take Beautiful Photos in Full Sun

November 10, 2011

in Photography Creative Team, Photography Tips, Photography Tutorials, Susan Keller

I Heart Faces | Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

Taking Photos in Full Sun?  This might seem like a daunting task, but it is still possible to create beautiful portraits by following a few simple strategies.  After receiving many positive comments on this topic from our Orange County Dream Big Workshop attendees, we asked Susan Keller to share those same photography tips with you.

I’m not too proud to admit that when I discovered I Heart Faces’ Dream Big Workshop in Orange County was scheduled for 1pm, I had a mild heart attack.

Ok, not really.

But, nearly. 😉

Because, let’s admit it: shooting in full sun is NOT a photographer’s dream. Shooting in full sun in the middle of summer when the sun is highest in the sky (not lower on the horizon as in winter) is REALLY NOT ideal light for flattering photography. I needed a strategy!! I Heart Faces jam-packs a lot of wonderful portfolio building practice & teaching into a quick afternoon. I needed to know where we would be shooting before we all arrived that day. So my family and I jumped in the car to scope out the workshop site at midday. What I was specifically looking to find was … S.H.A.D.E.

What we found was a whole lot of not-shade. :-(

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

3 Strategies for Shooting in Full Sun

1. Look for shade.

We found exactly two small locations with shade. And we used them both at the workshop!

Shade spot #1 was a little nook in the sandy cliffs next to the path down to the beach.

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

You can see below, from the first photo of the girls, that the shade spot was quite tiny. Tiny, but effective. It removed the bright sun from their faces and kept them from needing to squint. Yay for shade.

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

The only other significant shade I found on the beach existed underneath the lifeguard stand. :-)

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

And we used that spot of shade for both our girls’ session and our family session:

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

2. If you can’t find shade, make some.

We had the girls hold boogie boards over their heads, and we set up an umbrella for our family session.

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

3. Turn your subject away from the sun.

Turn your subject away from the sun, as much as possible. When utilizing this strategy, you will likely need to brighten your exposure to compensate for the “backlight” effect. (For a fuller discussion on how to expose for bright backgrounds, revisit this tutorial.)

I Heart Faces-Photography Tips for Full Sun Conditions

While I don’t necessarily encourage you all to run out and shoot sessions in the middle of the day, I do want to encourage you that midday shooting is possible and you can make it work beautifully with a little bit of planning.

P.s. I know you can also overcome full sun obstacles with use of flash and reflectors, but those are not within my personal arsenal of tricks, so I’ll leave that tutorial to someone else ;-).

Susan Keller for I Heart FacesSusan Keller is an Orange County, California baby, child & family photographer.  Subscribe to her blog or follow her on Facebook for tips, specials and client sneak peeks.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda Staph October 29, 2014

Love the P.S. on your article because the reason I read your articles and love them so much is that your tips and tricks are so practical and doable for those of us who don’t have all bells and whistles…..Keep doing what you do—you’re amazing!

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Erin Barajas April 14, 2013

Love the idea of “making” shade. Sometimes I read stuff and think… why didn’t I think of that!

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Christopher Johnston November 28, 2012

#the5 How to Take Photos in Full Sun http://t.co/srNM4aoW

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Casance Kendrick November 10, 2012

Wow, this is really good advice and I am so glad I stumbled upon it. Thanks so much for sharing:)

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Christopher Johnston September 5, 2012

How to Take Photos in Full Sun | I Heart Faces http://t.co/dpGYomP0 http://t.co/VDNzZqcF

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Christopher Johnston September 5, 2012

How to Take Photos in Full Sun | I Heart Faces http://t.co/dpGYomP0

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alexandra August 31, 2012

Love this! Shade really is my best friend. I have had to shoot in direct sunlight on shoots once or twice, and I did the same things- haha. Ironically, one of them was on a “cliff” beach, just like this one! Here is one of my shots from the day

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-gpQOgD5oz6A/T6CUCICBtZI/AAAAAAAAFGs/JHnKJpyu2Z4/s640/DSCF9742+-+Copy.JPG

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Patrizia Corriero December 7, 2011

Yes, it's true. Never been photographing around midday, but just in case read these useful tips: http://t.co/XQQksN7J

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Sharon Sayson November 11, 2011

This is a wonderful information. I’m trying to figure this things out myself and I’m very grateful that you share your tips in catching photos under the sun.

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lisa d. November 10, 2011

great idea to create shade with the boards!

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Laura Fiore November 10, 2011

LOVE these tips! Great article!

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Simple Girl November 10, 2011

Thanks for all these great tips! Your photos looked flawless!

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jennifer hadfield November 10, 2011

Love this tutorial from Susan Keller on @iheartfaces: How to Take Photos in Full Sun http://t.co/fK3CrO8U

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Angie November 10, 2011

Love this tutorial from Susan Keller on @iheartfaces: How to Take Photos in Full Sun http://t.co/fK3CrO8U

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keli November 10, 2011

Check out Susan Keller Photography's great article about photography in full sun!… http://t.co/BPWKhKBj

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Cheryl Navalinsky November 10, 2011

This couldn’t have come at a better time. I have a family to shoot on Saturday and their availability only allowed for mid-day and of course the forecast is calling for sunny skies! Thanks so much.

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Gina November 10, 2011

Oh & I forgot to mention- something I have learned the hard way- use a nice long lens hood- it really saves me from those orbs in the shot. I have found out the hard way too many times that the shot looks great on my tiny screen & when I get home & get the photos uploaded – there is the flare & orbs in the wrong places & it’s too late. So for me- full sun photos need that long lens hood.

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Gina November 10, 2011

I love that you have a way of posting the right tips at the perfect time I am going to be needing them. Being in Southern NV- we have full sun nearly all the time & with the wide open space- there isn’t any shade in sight- so that last tip is perfect for my next shoot this weekend. Thanks!

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Glitterbird Tammy November 10, 2011

Full sun is so daunting! Thanks for the tips. Most appreciated!

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Life with Kaishon November 10, 2011

This was so great! Thank you for sharing Susan!

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Tracy P. November 10, 2011

I love the family shots with the completely “blown” backgrounds. They are stunning. A great case for some out of the box thinking!

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Jenny November 10, 2011

These are gorgeous shots! And great tips :)

A photographer that I greatly admire – Kelly Sauer – uses a technique called “Contre-Jour” where she places the subject between her as the photog and the sun. It allows the sun to wash over the subject and paints the photo with light and it produces really gorgeous photos too.

I – as of yet – have not found the courage to shoot in full sun, so y’alls techniques will be helpful. Thank you so much!

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