Today on The Slanted Lens we are out in Bombay Beach, CA talking about how to shoot really interesting photographs using the sun as a key light. We are often scared to shoot in direct sun, but it definitely can be done and can lead to some (sun)sational shots!
Using Direct Sunlight as a Key Light
You can work in direct sunlight pretty easily, but you’ve got to use the sun almost like a key light. So in this video, the sun is like an overhead straight into my shot. It’s going to just light my subject up beautifully. While it is a little flat, overall it doesn’t look terrible. This is in part de to the fact that the building is at an angle. The building is turned just a little so that there is a bit of shadow left on the side of the building.
Shooting in Direct Sunlight
One trick that helps a lot in this type of situation is using a tilt shift lens. When you are shooting in flat areas or flat surfaces, you can throw your shot way out of focus. This will allow you to shift that plane of focus so it’s going not straight to the camera but rather shifts off into the distance. Doing this sends the focus off in two different directions, and allows the stuff that’s really close to me to become very out of focus. You can do this effect in Photoshop, but save yourself some editing time and try using a tilt shift lens.
Using Other Angles of Sunlight
We also tried a few shots where we let our spaceman fall partway into shadow and then used a reflector to bounce a little bit of light up into his face. It actually looked pretty cool! The reflector does a great job of opening up the subject’s face and leaves us with a really cool result.
You can also use direct sunlight to take some great silhouettes! All you need to do is look directly into the sun and place your subject in the foreground. You can then bounce just a little bit of light onto your subject to create a little more dimension in your shot. Then throw in that tilt-shift lens and make some magic happen!
The Trick to Shooting in Direct Sunlight
So the key to shooting in direct, harsh sunlight is placing it almost like you would any key light. If you get it behind and above you, it’s going to look a lot like a butterfly light. You place it to the sides and it can be a split light. If you keep working it, looking at it and moving it around and augmenting, eventually, you’re going to find something that starts to work. A good photographer will eventually find something that works. You keep working it till you just find something interesting.
Let me know how you adapt to shooting in direct sunlight!
Keep those cameras rollin’ and keep on clickin’.