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Full Sun by Missy Knight

Hi, I’m Missy Knight and I’m so honored to be writing this lesson on shooting in full sun for you all. Ironically enough, it was in this very group when they started sharing lessons like these that helped me take the plunge and learn how to use full sun to my advantage instead of dreading the harsh light. I’m a momma of two kids who you’ll see are my main subjects and living in Colorado where the sun shines most days of the year, I’ve had to learn how to embrace all types of light, including shooting in full sun. From snow sports in winter, to long days of soccer in the fall and spring, to hours spent in and around the water all summer, I learned I didn’t want to let those moments pass by just because the lighting wasn’t ideal. It just takes an open mind to use the bright light in a different way to help tell your stories.

1. Scale - I like to use scale during full sun to show how small we all are in this big world. Wide angle lenses, fast shutter speeds and smaller f stops are helpful to preserve both the sky and your subjects during the bright parts of the day. You can use minimal editing to bring up shadows on subjects when needed. I’ll typically use the radial filter in Lightroom on my subjects to decrease any shadows just a tad.

Fuji XT1 XF16mmF1.4 R WR ISO 200, SS 1/4000, f/3.2

Fuji XT3 XF16mmF1.4 R WR  ISO 200, SS 1/1000, f/8

Fuji XT1 XF23mmF2 R WR ISO 200, SS 1/4000, f/2.5

2. Positioning  - Shoot with the sun towards your subjects or to the side so the shadows fall in unobtrusive places. When the sun is towards your subject, if it’s too bright have them look off to the side or even close their eyes and soak it all in. 

Fuji XT1 XF23mmF2 R WR ISO 200, SS 1/2000, f/3.6

Fuji XT1 XF16mmF1.4 R WR ISO 500, SS 1/4000, f/4.5

Fuji XT3 Lensbaby Sol 45 ISO 200, SS 1/4000, f/3.5

3. Shadows - Shadows can actually work to your advantage. Use the shadows that are present to help better tell your story.

Fuji XT1 XF16mmF1.4 R WR ISO 400, SS 1/4000, f/5.6

Fuji XT1 XF23mmF2 R WR ISO 100, SS 1/2000, f/2.8

4. Contrast - Shoot or convert your images into black and white. The high contrast scenes create beautiful black and white images. The dark shadows and bright highlights work well together in this case.

Fuji XT3 XF16mmF1.4 R WR ISO 160, SS 1/4000, f/1.6

Fuji XT3 Lensbaby Sol 45 ISO 200, SS 1/1000, f/3.5

GoPro Hero7 Black ISO 100 SS 1/2500 f/2.8

5. Film - I’ve just started learning to shoot film and one thing I’ve learned is film loves light. Bright day light is fantastic for film.

Nikon N75 50 f/1.8 Portra 400 film IS0 400

Nikon N75 50 f/1.8 Portra 400 film IS0 400

Nikon N75 50 f/1.8 HP5 film IS0 400

6. Underwater - Photographing all your summer fun around the water is a great way to utilize full sun as well. The more light the better for underwater images. I use my GoPro with and without a dome when I take it underwater. I also enjoy using my other cameras too if it’s for water fun in the backyard like above.

GoPro Hero7 Black ISO 100 SS 1/2000 f/2.8

Editing tips for underwater photography - If you are shooting in RAW mode, you’ll want to add lots of warmth back into the skin since the water is making your subject’s skin look blue. It’s a lot of trial and error for me and I’m still learning lots of tips and tricks too so if you have any to add, I’d love to hear them! Here are some of the tricks I’ve learned.

SOOC Image from GoPro Hero7 Black

  1. I use the radial filter in LR. I try to make it as small around the subject as possible so as to affect as little of the water around the subject as I can. I play around with adjusting the temperature slider to warmer and the tint to add more red. I’ll do a little of each at a time and repeat until I feel like I have a good start.. On the bottom of that panel you are working in you can change the range mask to color and then select the eyedropper tool. Select an area on the skin and that helps to try to keep the changes to mostly just the skin.

  2. For my kids skin I use the split tone feature to add some peach into the highlighted areas. It will affect the highlights in the whole image so I bring it down to quite a low percentage. For other skin tones you could choose the option closest to that skin tone you are working with, just make note of how it affects other highlighted areas in your image as well.

  3. Afterwards I’ll take a brush and adjust the temp and tint sliders to add some blue and green back into the spots in the image that are not part of my subject but were affected by the radial filter and/or split toning.

  4. I’ll also play around with the contrast, texture, clarity, and dehaze.

LR edit

  1. In Photoshop I add a soft light layer and use a layer mask to just affect my subject to help the subject stand out a bit, I’ll lower the opacity so that my subject pops just a bit but not unnaturally so.

  2. This time I added a texture layer and a little water bokeh layer as well to finish it off.

PS final Edit

I hope you enjoyed this lesson. Feel free to find me on Instagram at if you have any questions about shooting in full sun and/or editing those images just send me a message. I hope you’ll learn to embrace photographing in full sun too!

-Missy Knight

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