September 10, 2020

Shooting In Direct Sun: How To Nail Harsh Lighting



You ready to become a master at shooting in direct, harsh sun?

Have you ever been told NOT to shoot in direct sunlight or avoid it as much as possible? I have! I heard this a handful of times when I started picking up a camera. Honestly, I got nervous to even try. I mean, there must be a reason people hate it and avoid it… so I should too, right?

But when I started to experiment and TRY shooting in direct sun, I became obsessed. I LOVED the results – the deep, rich colors and golden skin tones. Slowly but surely, shooting in direct sunlight has become one of my FAVORITE things!

However, I get that it is tough and takes some practice. So I have 3 big tips for you so that you can NAIL those direct sun photos every time! Are you ready to ROCK shooting in direct sun?

1. Aperture/f-stops

Your aperture does 2 things.

First off, aperture is what determines how much light is let through the camera lens.

Large number, like f/16 = small lens opening. Small lens opening = less light gets through.

Small number, like f/1.4 = large lens opening. Large lens opening = a lot of light gets through.

Secondly, it determines depth of field / how many things are in focus. A large f-stop number = the more that will be in focus (no background blur), while a smaller number = the less that’s in focus and the more background blur you’ll have.

For example, f/16 = 16 things in focus. f/2.0 = 2 things in focus!

Whenever you’re setting your camera’s aperture, those are the 2 things to remember.

When you’re out shooting people in direct sun, you want a nice blurred background, but you also don’t want to let a ton of light. Setting your camera’s aperture between 2.0 and 2.8 should be perfect.

2. Shutter Speed

Shutter speed = how long you let light flow into your lens.

A low shutter speed (such as 1/150) = the slower the lens opens and closes, which lets light through longer.

A high shutter speed (such as 1/6000) = the faster the shutter opens and closes, letting light through briefly.

In direct sun, choose a shutter speed of 1/2000+

Setting a quick shutter speed will make sure you get enough light, but not too much.

3. ISO

ISO = how sensitive you want your camera to be to light.

A low number (ISO 100) = not sensitive to light.

A high number (ISO 64000) = very sensitive to light.

In direct sun you don’t need your camera to be super sensitive to light because you have a ton around you. So setting your camera to an ISO of 100-150 should be perfect.

I hope this helps you NAIL those direct sun lighting scenarios! Feel free to let me know your experience with direct sun shooting in the comments!

Go make some magic!



shooting in direct sun examples:

shooting in direct sun
f/1.6 | ISO 100 | 1/8000

shooting in direct sun
f/1.8 | ISO 100 | 1/5000
shooting in direct sun
shooting in direct sunFULL SUN FAMILY PHOTOS
f/2.5 | ISO 100 | 1/3400

shooting in direct sun
f/2 | ISO 100 | 1/4000

Venues shown:

The Weinberg at Wixon Valley

Hidden River Ranch

  1. Wow! So educational, well worded, and helpful! Keep it up!!

  2. Ben Lichnovsky says:

    This is really good stuff! Keep it up!

  3. Brittany burmaster says:

    I love how you are so engaged, confident and you love your job! My favorite thing about this site and why you do is your masterpieces!

  4. Meagan Fleming says:

    I have totally heard this before! Thanks for the helpful tips Sulli! I’m sure we’ll meet again someday!! 🙂

  5. This is so awesome for helping people understand exposure! I love that you’re sharing your wisdom

  6. Miriam says:

    Love the natural light you’ve capture here! The images look raw in a simplistic, vintage way!

  7. Alexis Cole says:

    I’m so excited about you sharing posts like this! I’ve always wanted to be able to take nice pictures, even just as a nice lil back pocket skill, but anything except automatic has always scared me. You rock I can’t wait for the blog to be totally up and running 🙂

  8. Kathryn Deden says:

    Oh my goodness! This is SO helpful, I’m a photographer myself and LOVE IT. This is such good advice!! I love your new website friend, it’s so stunning. -Kathryn Deden

  9. Brooke Chevalier says:

    Hi. You’re amazing at this. Your website: gorgeous. Your photos: gorgeous-er. I love watching you evolve your talents. Can’t wait to watch you grow!!!!

    -brooke chevalier

  10. Hannah Brown says:

    So so so stoked for you and this website, Sulli! Keep killing the game!

  11. […] Want to go ahead and learn? Have trouble shooting in direct harsh light!? Check out this blog post: How to Shoot In Direct Sun […]

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