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How To Take Photos in Direct Sunlight

How To Take Photos in Direct Sunlight

Photography is meant to be a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Beginners will find many different lighting conditions that will be exposed to them while shooting still images or video recording. One of these harsher conditions for photography, is shooting during the time of day when the direct sun is shining bright light or direct sunlight in the scene.

For example, imagine you are a wedding photographer and you need to ensure that your photoshoot is perfect for your customer. Outdoor weddings on sunny days are commonplace and harsh sunlight could easily effect your images and video. The last thing a wedding party wants to see is their images caught as forever memories for the bride and groom to have the subject’s face squinting their eyes.

Taking photos in bright sun can cause exposure problems with your image. Start by getting the right lens for lighting situations. Using a lens hood when you want to avoid lens flare or protect your camera lens is the right move. Lens hoods can come with UV lens protection filter as well, which will be great come time to take photos in bright direct sunlight protecting the surface of the lens.

Below are some photography tips, tricks and tutorials to help you ensure better photos, even if your light source is overly harsh.

Direct Sunlight

Manual Mode

Shooting in manual mode will give you the most availability to access all your camera settings for those bright sunny days. Being able to choose your presets for harsh sunlight is imperative. Harsh light is not ideal as it creates harsh shadows on the skin that highlight facial details showing a better skin tone. This is especially helpful when taking portrait photography.

Remember that images and videos taken in direct sunlight will often produce exposures which are typical of sunny days. Often times, your images or videos will require additional post production work in photoshop like adobe lightroom which offers so many options to edit your image still or video recording. These can be accessed through many camera connected apps or as mentioned photoshop apps. Lightroom can help you work with images shot in RAW footage and image management amongst other post-production work.

Try having your subject stand in a doorway or even shade outdoors. While these may seem like obvious suggestions, doing this will help divert the harsh light from the direct sun away from your subject and allow natural warmer lighting conditions for your image or video exposure.

Direct Sunlight


Aperture Priority and White Balance are critical to proper photography in bright sunlight.

Using Fill flash via the flash exposure preset on the camera is used to brighten harsh shadow areas on sunny days. If the background of your subject is significantly brighter than the actual subject of the photograph, as in too much backlight, this will help with the image exposure.

When taking direct sunlight photos on a particular sunny day with harsh lighting conditions due to the bright light, try setting your ISO to a low setting due to it’s sensitivity to light. Recommended ISO settings for bright light are 100-800. Setting the camera at this ISO speed will let the least amount of light in, in addition to noise reduction in photo. Again meaning less post-processing!

Try setting your camera to open shade on the mode dial. This is prevalent when the subject of your image or video is standing in the shade with the harsh sunlight above them. This will result in a image or video that has awesome light illuminating the subjects face.

Set your camera’s shutter speed to a lower speed like 1/1000. One of the last things you want when taking photos in direct sunlight is for your shutter speed to be open for too long. The more length of time that the shutter is open, the more harsh light you allow in. 

Metering Mode

Make sure that you use spot metering when taking direct sunlight photos, even more at at midday sun peaks. Using spot metering, for instance as a portrait photographer, will allow you focus on a small point on a subject’s face, instead of having to adjust the amount of light around the other areas of the subject or the entire scene. This will come in handy as a wedding photographer.


Reflectors can help reflect the light source and point the light towards darkness. Reflectors can also keep harsh shadows away. Some examples of reflectors colors are:

White: neutral and best when you don't want to change the color of someone's clothing (think of a bride as a wedding photographer). Silver is another neutral color but have additional brightness, Gold which will give your exposure warmer colored tones, Blue which can get you cooler tones and translucent reflectors also known as a diffuser. These are some examples for reflectors geared towards filtering out harsh light.

Try using an ND (neutral density) filter to help with avoiding those annoying photoshoots that result in blown-out highlights. Blown-out highlights will cause a loss in the detail of the image.

A Polarizing Filter which is also a great way to help with harsh light on a sunny day is a filter option. A polarizing filter cuts down on any more brighter whiter light in the image while still allowing the colors of the light, subject or object to come through, clearly without harsh shadows.

Golden Hour

The golden hour is the perfect time to capture what is known as bokeh, or backlit subjects using a wide aperture. In order to achieve this effect, you must be facing the direct sun whilst capturing your image. If done correctly, you’ll be able to highlight everything blowing in the air. A great way to capture the beautiful warm light in the sky is to shoot with a daylight white balance preset. We recommend not choosing auto white balance. If done via auto white balance image may appear flattish requiring additional post-processing of your content.

Camera Options

As a photographer, you are going to find yourself in different lighting conditions. From low or dim light like shooting images and video recordings to outdoor shooting in direct harsh sunlight. You want to make sure that you get that high contrast that you need to ensure that pixels are being shown correctly in your image or video that may even be uploaded to your Vlog.

One of the unique cameras that we believe will catch the attention of your friends and family is this niche throwback Polaroid Originals Now+ 2nd Generation i-Type Instant Film Camera, Black with 5 Lens Filters. This is a cute little camera which besides the nostalgia of a Polaroid camera, this camera comes with some great little specs like mobile connectivity to unlock more creative features through Polaroid App, Connection via bluetooth and USBC cable, made of 40% recycled materials, works with full size Polaroid film and comes with 5 colored lens filters, again very helpful in direct sunlight.

A fantastic full frame mirrorless camera which will be perfect for outdoor shooting in the direct sun with harsh lighting conditions is the Sony a7 III Mirrorless Full Frame Camera. With specs like Sony’s advanced 24.2MP Back-Illuminated 35mm Full-frame Image Sensor including a 15-stop dynamic range, silent AE/AF Autofocus tracking, 4K HDR video recording, up to 710 images can be shot on a batteries full charge (this is great especially as Lithium-Ion batteries degrade with heat so taking shots in direct sunlight with a high heat source will help slow degradation of the battery. UBC and Micro USB connectivity, coupled with the beautifully crafted Sony FE 28-70 mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Standard Zoom Lens with OIS and a great weather resistant design which will prevent dust and moisture damage.

Let’s Photograph in Direct Sunlight

To sum up what we hope will be a good tutorial with some tips and tricks for taking direct sunlight images and video recording. This applies to vloggers and content creators as well, shooting under these lighting conditions. Add to your subscriber and viewer list by having content shot in the direct sun come through clearly and in vivid colors and detail.

The best way to determine the presets and any post processing you may need when shooting in direct sunlight is by getting out there and giving it a try. So get ready start you photography career or just continue to develop it.


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