Photography in harsh sun

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by Brian Murphy, Jun 13, 2019.

  1. I am going on vacation with the family in a few weeks. I am sure my grandsons will be swimming and grandma will want some photos.
    Does anyone have any advice for shooting in the bright sun with water and not blowing out too badly the water or the subjects? Any advice would be appreciated.
  2. It's depend on camera, as you can see Sony seems to have really good dynamic range. But for portraits use open shade or wait for cloudy skies :)
    Brian Murphy likes this.
  3. What camera?
    • With a mirrorless, you can see the blow highlights and adjust exposure BEFORE you press the shutter.
    • With a dSLR, you don't see that till AFTER you press the shutter, and only if you can see the rear screen in the bright light. That is sometimes VERY difficult without some sort of shade or shaded magnifier. Quite frustrating. I came to the conclusion that as much as I did not want to, I need to get one of those shaded magnifiers.
    Shoot RAW, so you have a better chance of salvaging the shot in post processing.
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  4. The sand reflects a lot of light, even when the person has their back to the sun. Still, it doesn't hurt to use flash fill at times. Dial it down a stop for a more natural appearance.
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  5. View on an EVF if possible, and turn on the zebras. dial down E.V. until they disappear.
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  6. In general, the camera will react to the bright sand and reflections from the surf. You'll record every detail in the sand, but faces will be too dark to recognize. unless they're in full sunlight.
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  7. SCL


    Harsh sun can also bring lots of flare and unwanted reflections. You might consider a polarizer.
    Brian Murphy likes this.
  8. Flare is usually caused when a strong light source strikes the lens, even outside the field of view. A polarizer will do little to mitigate flare and will actually do the opposite whether light strikes the lens directly or not. There can be a synergism between the flat filter and flat, reflective sensor, resulting in veiling flare, even a bright patch in the center of the image. Removing even a clear filter can improve the constrast when shooting toward the light or bright surfaces (e.g., Florida sand).

    That said, the protection offered by a filter is more valuable than any gain in contrast around sand and salt spray.
    Brian Murphy likes this.
  9. Maybe a stupid answer, but why not get get out there with them and take some photos with the sun in their faces?
    From the shore - if your grandsons are close enough - a fill-flash (or reflector)can help.

    If it was me, I'd look for ways to get grandsons in sunlight: time of day, wade, hire a boat (canoe/paddle/motor)

    Ed_Ingold and Brian Murphy like this.
  10. peaked mountain from targhee s.jpg
    Snow in bright sun is a similar problem. This photo was exposed at 1/640s, f:8.0, ISO 100 and shows good highlight and shadow detail (perhaps with a little help from Photoshop, I forget). The sunny 16 rule exposure for the same ISO would have been 1/100s at f:16, or the equivalent 1/400s at f:8.0. Starting with 1/2 the sunny 16 exposure for a bright snow or beach scene should get you close to the optimum exposure, and bracketing by + or - a quarter stop should get you closer.
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  11. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Reasonable rule of thumb:

    Assuming you're using the EOS 6D, set CWA Metering and Exposure Compensation to - (minus) 1 Stop. This will get you within good limits of correct exposure for all FRONT LIT hard sun shots. (NB Similar advice as per Glenn above).

    A CPL (Circular Polarizing Filter) or a Polarizing Filter will, in most situations, assist in cutting the specular reflections off the water, but using a CPL can be fiddly, I usually wouldn't use one in the situation you described.

    A salient point is, the front direct sun (onto the Subjects) often makes them squint, sometimes they wear hats (Sample 1), or the sun is side lit to the Subject (Sample 2) - in these cases and when using the exposure parameters I have given, you'll need to bring up the exposure of the SHADOW AREA (especially of the faces) in Post Production at the same time you can soften the hard shadow lines on the faces if you wish.

    Sample 1:

    4 Girls, Green Hills Beach, AUS


    Sample 2


    Wave Waiting - Cronulla, AUS


    (yes, it's an odd skin colour on her cheek in shadow, a reaction to sunscreen I think - I did better in the sunlit areas)
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
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  12. One of the car shows always has their fashion show (I still don't see the connection) at high noon. Tough lighting made easier by photogenic models.
    Concorso Italiano 09_Fashion Show_3.jpg
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2019
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  13. William, why do you post photos with hideous borders. Is it art?
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  14. If you’re photographing a group perhaps use center metering and set exposure and then frame the shot. It will compensate if subjects are in shadow or faces shaded by hats.
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  15. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    They'll come back into fashion.
    Ludmilla likes this.
  16. Shoot RAW, whites recovery, use polarizer filters.
    Brian Murphy likes this.
  17. Thank you everybody for your input. I appreciate your help and have a lot to learn.
    William Michael likes this.

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