FULL SUN by Angie Warmington

Hi everyone, Angie Warmington here! I am so happy to write a short lesson on how I approach photographing in full sun! Believe it or not, but this is my favorite type of light to shoot in. And that is thanks to this group. I along with most people, used to shy away from “harsh” light. When I first started learning about photography, I was convinced that if I wanted to take beautiful pictures then I needed to only shoot in beautiful light. But that is not only untrue but soooo unrealistic. I’m mother to three active little boys and we live our best lives when the sun is high in the sky. If I only photographed them during beautiful golden light, I would end up missing so much! And as my family’s self-declared memory keeper that would be – well, it would be awful.


f4.0, 1/2500 ISO 100


I stumbled onto the P52 Clicks community at the end of 2017 and really dived into the lessons the following year. And it was this community that really helped me grow as a photographer and an artist. In fact, it was during our month of full sun where I felt like I had finally found my personal “voice” when it came to my photography style.


Full sun adds such a fun element of adventure to images. I love the happy vibe that bright light brings my images. So, I wanted to walk you through my approach to how I photograph my boys when we’re out exploring during the day.


f4.0 1/4000 ISO 100


BLUE SKIES

I am a sucker for bright blue skies and fluffy clouds. If you look at my work, you’re going to see that everywhere. And when do we get those gorgeous skies? During full sun!


The beautiful thing about all that light that I don’t think people realize, is that it creates so much depth and vibrancy in your images. The bright parts of your images are going to be super bright. The dark parts of your images are going to be super dark. Full sun adds a lot of contrast to your scene which is great for shooting skies.


f3.5 1/2500 ISO 100


What I have found to be key when shooting for skies is to pay close attention to the highlights. With all that light bouncing around it’s easy to blow them out. Unfortunately, if you’ve blown out areas of your image that information is lost. And while you can play around to try to fix it a little in post processing, you can’t recover information that isn’t there.


I shoot with a Nikon D750 and it has a feature called Active D Lighting. By turning this on it allows me to take a test shot so I can see if I’ve got any blown areas. The Active D Lighting feature will make any areas of my image that are blown out blink when I view it in preview format. From there I can adjust my settings if I need to.


f4.5 1/1600 ISO 100 (my first full sun image where I fell in love!!!)


During full sun I will usually work with a narrower aperture. One, because my guys are always moving and I want to make sure I have enough wriggle room to ensure they’re in focus. But also, to cut down on some of the light from getting into my lens. I like to hover around 3.0 and I rarely go wider than 2.5. My ISO is always at 100 when out during full sun. Once I have these two settings determined, the only thing I’ll have to adjust is my shutter speed when needed.


f4.5 1/1250 ISO 100


When shooting for skies, I will meter off the highlights of my subject’s skin and then underexpose by half a stop or one full stop to make sure that I don’t lose the detail of the sky. Over the years I’ve found that during full sun there is light hitting both my subject and my environment almost equally. And because of that I don’t have to underexpose as much during full sun as I would during golden hour. In Lightroom I will play with graduated filters to really draw the colors and details in the sky out even more. I purchased a set of presets from Clickin Moms a few years ago called the Elements Collection. There are a set of tools that Susan Grimes created for that collection that I absolutely love. I use them any time I want to play up the sky in my images. You should check them out. They’re great!


STORYTELLING


Full sun is a great time to play with the storytelling elements of your images. Like I said before, I have three wild little dudes and they love to play and explore. When we’re out and about I usually just let them do their thing. I don’t do a whole lot of directing since I like to capture them as they truly are. All wild and crazy!


f3.2 1/2000 ISO 100


That means instead, I’m moving myself around to try to capture different angles and perspectives, trying to incorporate as much of their story and their environment into my images as possible. I might be shooting in “less than ideal” light but that doesn’t mean I can’t still be artistic about it. This is a really good time to push yourself to come up with interesting compositions and to really push the storytelling aspects of an image.


f2.5 1/3200 ISO 100


PORTRAITS


Total honesty here, full sun isn’t necessarily the best light for portraits. But it is doable, you just need to really be aware of where the shadows are falling on your subject. Now, while I am a fan of just letting my boys do their thing and I just photograph them as they are, I do like to sneak in a “portrait” every now and then. One of my favorite types of images to get is of my boys’ face with nothing but sky surrounding them. There’s something about the little person in a big world vibe that I get from it that I absolutely love.


f4.0 1/2000 ISO 100


When I’m going for this type of image, I tend to photograph they’re profile. There are less harsh shadows to deal with … plus its cute. What I do is have them turn their face away from the sun so it’s not shining directly into their eyes, but then I have them lift their face up to the sky so that it’s properly lit. When exposing for this type of image I will meter for the highlights on their skin and then under expose just slightly, usually either by half a stop or one full stop. (I underexpose by speeding up my shutter speed fyi. Not sure if I mentioned that, so there you go!)


f3.2 1/500 ISO 100


Another trick for portraits in full sun is to have the sun behind or to the side of your subject and then either be slightly above them or to have them lift their face up more towards the sky. Just a slight tipping up of the chin should do it. That way you’re getting more light in your subject’s eyes as well as getting rid of the shadows that will fall under their eyes.


f2.8 1/1600 ISO 100


Look for natural reflectors in your environment as well. Sand, concrete buildings and sidewalks are all great reflectors you’ll find when you’re out and about. For this image I had my son on my feet and raised him up. You can clearly see that the sun is behind him. In order to get light on his face I laid on the cement walkway in our backyard so that the sun was being bounced back up into his face. Metering for his skin and under exposing by one stop kept me from blowing out the highlights on his skin but it also helped me retain the details in the sky.



f2.5 1/4000 ISO 100


FACELESS IMAGES


I do a lot of faceless images guys. In fact, a lot of my favorites are faceless. Hmm… maybe because I don’t have to worry so much about harsh shadows on my subjects? They’re mysterious and artistic? Sure, sure. We’ll go with all that. But in all seriousness, faceless images are a fun way of showing off your environment and they add a great storytelling vibe. Two of my favorite things!


f2.8 1/1600 ISO 100


For the image below, I laid in the grass so I was lower than my son and moved around until their environment was filling the whole frame and he was just a tiny dot.


f3.5 1/4000 ISO 100


I also like to shoot from their point of view. For this one below I followed right behind my little guy and bent down so and shot from what felt like his eye level so it gives that feeling of seeing the world from his eyes. It’s just a fun way to play with perspectives.



f3.2 1/4000 ISO 100


And I think that’s all I got for now! I hope you give these approaches a try and that they help you if you’ve been feeling any hesitancy with using full sun. While I don’t think I’ll ever feel like I can claim to be an expert in shooting with full son I really think it’s so fun. And I would love if you allowed yourself to play and get comfortable with it as well and maybe even end up loving it as much as I do! So, get out there and enjoy the sunshine! Ugh, my apologies … I couldn’t resist. I had a sudden deep need to end my cheesy closing paragraph with a cheesing closing line.


f2.8 1/1000 ISO 100

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