Shooting in direct sunlight is something most photographers and filmmakers avoid. The light is harsh and not very flattering, but sometimes you’ll be forced to shoot in such conditions. In this video from Cinecom, you’ll learn five simple tricks to make the absolute best out of harsh midday sun.
1. Keep the sun behind the subject
As Jordy explains it, you should draw an imaginary line through your subject, and not have the sun on the same side as your camera. Instead, have the sun behind the subject so it acts as backlight. When the sunlight hits the subject directly, it makes them appear flat, plus they can’t keep their eyes open.
There’s an extra tip Jordy shares here: when shooting with wide angle lenses, you’ll have more flare when shooting at the sun. So, zoom in or use longer lenses to reduce it.
2. Use a reflector
When the sun is behind your subject, it will provide a nice backlight –but the subject’s face will be underexposed. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to deal with this. Simply use a reflector or even a piece of white foam board to bounce off that sunlight. Jordy notes that it’s a mistake to bounce the light off from below, as it looks unnatural. Instead, place it opposite of the sun to add natural, flattering light to the subject’s face. If you use two reflectors, then one of them can go below the subject’s face to fill in the shadows.
Other than reflectors, you can even use real-world objects to bounce off the sunlight. These can be bright walls or the flooring of a parking lot.
3. Always expose for the highlights
When shooting in bright sunlight, make sure to control the exposure manually, especially if you’re shooting with a smartphone. Otherwise, the bright parts of the image will end up overexposed. Adjust the settings so the bright areas are exposed properly, and you can later brighten the dark areas in post. Jordy suggests even going for silhouettes if the story allows it – place the sun directly behind the subject so it’s completely underexposed, while the sky is exposed properly.
4. Create shade
Okay, so, the sun is behind the subject, you’ve bounced the light off – but the sky looks washed out. If you want to get the blue sky, the sun will have to light your subject from the side or from the front. Now what? Well, in this case, you can use a reflector base as a sunshade. This way you’ll get the blue sky in the shot, yet make the sunlight softer and more flattering.
5. Use filters
Finally, consider using ND filters if you want to shoot outdoors. This way, you can open your aperture and get a larger depth of field. You can also use polarizing filters, which will add saturation to the sky in bright sunlight (it instantly makes me think of Breaking Bad and how the sky looks in this TV show).
I guess this tutorial came at the right time, at least for the folks in the Northern Hemisphere. The days are long and sunny, so most of the outdoor shooting has to be done in direct sunlight.
Are there any tricks you’d recommend for shooting in direct sunlight? Feel free to write them in the comments below.
[FILMING in HARD SUNLIGHT (5 Easy Tricks) | Cinecom]