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Photography in sunny conditions

Tips for taking great pictures in the sunshine

Whenever I wake up on a blue sky and sunny morning, I never fail to feel inspired by the way that the sunshine turns everything into full and beautiful colour. It doesn't matter whether I'm photographing a typical suburban street or a dramatic sea view; the sunshine makes such a big difference, that instead of everything being flat and grey, the world and now seems to be singing in glorious technicolor. If you've got the time and the skies are blue, grab your camera!

So you're out and about, camera in hand, all excited about the sparkly blue sky and what you might be able to create - take a look up. Depending on what time you manage to get out of bed, you will find that the skies are a much deeper blue opposite the sun, and the closer you move the camera towards the sun, the whiter the sky turns. So the sky isn't deep blue all around you - take some photos at different positions as you walk around and compare them.

If all's gone well, you've got the world's most powerful light source on your side - the sun! But having such a powerful source of light does come with a few issues. The main one is a strong light source will create a strong (hard) shadow. Take a look at your own shadow if you're standing outside, and you will see what I mean. This can create some fantastic effects, and I have taken some really nice photos of cyclists' shadows as they cycled past me. But if you're photographing people and faces, it can create some very dark shadows if the sun casts a shadow across their face. It affects buildings and objects to, and your camera will probably expose for the sunny part of the photo, leaving the shady parts looking very dark indeed. Timing here is important, but the more you look at how the light effects things, the more you'll learn to help the sun work with you.

Bright sunlight can also mean squinting people. For anyone who has ever tried to photograph children on a beach, you will know what I mean. The bright sun and sand can mean half your photos have eyes closed on them. One solution is to put your person with their back to the light (which means in theory they won't be squinting) and force your flash on your camera to fire. This can really look good, as the sun can act as a 'rim light' for the back of the person's head / hair. This is good when you're fairly close to your subject, but if you're more than 8 feet away your camera might struggle.

In sunny conditions, a separate flash light or speedlite (if you have one) can make a huge difference. I've included some photos that show the difference a speed light or off-camera flash can make, and it really is dramatic.

All images © timpestridge.co.uk, read more about Tim Pestridge.

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