Shooting in the middle of the day is scary, even for the most seasoned photographer. However, we can’t always wait for the golden hour. Life happens 24 hours a day. Summer is here and we have to embrace the sun and all that beautiful light that comes with it.
You can approach shooting midday two ways. You can either shoot with the sun behind your subject (my personal favorite) or you can shoot with the sun behind you so it’s directly on the subject.
Even at midday you can shoot backlit. Shooting with backlight means you simply put your light source (the sun) behind your subject. When you shoot backlit you won’t get all those harsh shadows that come with shooting in direct sun and your subject also won’t be squinting. If you are shooting in manual simply overexpose (lower your shutter speed) to allow in a bit more light. This will brighten up your subject. If you take the shot at exactly what your camera says is exposed correctly, your subject will be too dark like the image below.
*** All images shot with Canon 5D Mark II, 50 1.2
F 2.5, 1/8000, ISO 125
All I did for this image is simply lower my shutter speed a bit.
F 2.5, 1/3200, ISO 125
The other option is to shoot with your subject facing the sun. With this option you get those pretty blue skies because you aren’t overexposing your shot. You will want to shoot at what your camera says is correctly exposed. I like to shoot this way when my subject isn’t looking at the camera.
F 2.2, 1/8000, ISO 125
If your subject is looking at the camera you are more likely to get those harsh shadows on the face that aren’t so pretty.
F 3.5, 1/2000, ISO 125
To find the light that you are looking for, simply change your angle. By walking around your subject you’ll be able to see the different ways the light falls on them. I always pay particular attention to the face.
F 3.5, 1/1250, ISO 125
Choosing either all light or all sun is going to be key to get your images looking better in midday light.
F 2.5, 1/8000, ISO 125
Shooting in manual can be a bit daunting, but you want to take full advantage of that nice camera you have and all it has to offer. When shooting in full sun I keep my ISO at the lowest possible (I shoot at 125) because you have all the light you need. When shooting one subject I typically keep my aperture between 2.0 – 2.8 in order to blur my background a bit and make my subject pop (if you don’t have a prime lens just shoot at your widest aperture possible, which will be your smallest f-stop number). And your shutter speed is going to be based on your exposure meter (that line you see when you look through the viewfinder). When shooting backlit I want to overexpose a bit (lower my shutter speed) and when shooting with my subject in full sun I will expose for my what my camera tells me is correct (you want that line right in the middle of your exposure meter).
The great thing about digital photography is you have the luxury of overshooting and seeing what works and what doesn’t. So, get out there and embrace the sun! Just don’t forget your sunscreen!