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Fun in the Sun... or not

Concord, Knoxville, TN

Wednesday, July 2, 2008
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I always try to schedule outdoor portrait sessions or wedding photos within a few hours of sunrise or sunset because afternoon sun is just not fun. If you luck out and have clouds then it can be great, but on sunny days it is better to just wait until the evening when the sun is lower in the sky. The light gets warmer (more golden), and you don't get the horrible shadows and squinting that you have in the middle of the day. Unfortunately, wedding schedules aren't always as flexible as we'd like so you have to learn to work with the sun.

On one recent sunny (and ridiculously hot) day, I shot some photos at the park with sisters S&L. We got some keepers, but I also took the opportunity to snap a few shots that show exactly why afternoon sun is not ideal for outdoor photos.

This shot of the ducklings is a good example of one of the problems we face on sunny days. Even when you can find shade, it is often broken up with patches of bright sunlight. While our eyes are able to accurately view a scene like this, the camera can't expose for both the dark shadows and bright highlights. I actually combined two different exposures to get this one that isn't completely over or under exposed.
Fun in the Sun... or not

You can do some cool shots with full sun, but it is really the worst lighting in my opinion for formal portraits. The three shots below are straight from the camera. The first shot is in full sun. If you don't have any shade and have to shoot in these conditions then you would need to use flash to fill in the shadows on the face. Unfortunately, she was wearing white which, as you can see, is way overexposed in the sunlight. Trying to get an even exposure is tricky enough without having to worry about bright white clothing.

The second shot is of her standing in the uneven shade of a tree (notice one patch of sunlight hit her shoulder). I exposed for her which resulted in a blown-out background. She obviously looks the best in this photo, but you lose the beautiful scenery.

I took the third shot exposing for the background, but this obviously leaves our subject in the dark shade. To fix this, I would need to light her with flash or reflector. That scenario would give the most even lighting, and the white shirt wouldn't be as much of a problem.

Fun in the Sun... or not

Flash can help a lot with photos in the sun, but it will have to work very hard and can overheat on a day that's already super hot. To avoid some of those problems on this day, I just tried to shoot with both the girls and the background in the shade. I also used a reflector to help light some of the shadows. We ended up with some nice shots, but if you want to really take advantage of your surroundings and get some great wide shots then it's best to just schedule your outdoor photos for the morning or evening.

Fun in the Sun... or not

Fun in the Sun... or not

L wore a little brown dress that belonged to her grandmother when she was a little girl. I photographed S wearing it when she was 7 as well.

Fun in the Sun... or not

5/22/2009 1:19:35 PM
wow good pictures of me!
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Welcome to the Nancy Hellsten Photography blog! This is the place to be if you’re looking for wedding ideas and photography promotions or if you just want to view some great photos and see what I’ve been up to. If you or someone you know are getting married, having a baby, or just want some relaxed portraits with the family, please visit my website or contact me for more information. I would love to hear from you. Thanks for visiting and check back often to see what’s new.