Image by Peter Bargh.
This time of year, chances are you'll find yourself shooting in bright sunlight at some point. To help you avoid blown out, unflattering shots, here are a few top tips for using your camera on those really bright days.
It goes without saying that you should never point your camera directly into the blazing sun, as this can damage your eyes if you're looking through the viewfinder and burn the camera's sensor, too.
Drop down a few stops - If your images are coming out too bright overall, then stopping down a few notches should help. Stopping down your exposure half a stop or one full stop should create a more balanced exposure that looks natural.
Use a filter - On bright days, sometimes you'll find that the sky is brighter than the ground, causing it to be under exposed, or if you focus on the ground then the sky will be blown out. This is because there is quite a vast difference between the brightness of the two, and the easiest way to fix this is to use a graduated ND filter. A graduated ND filter gets gradually darker at one end, allowing you to level out the brightness of your scene.
Use a lens hood - A lens hood will help protect your images from unsightly glare, unless of course that's the effect you're going for. A lens hood will also shield the lens itself from the direct sun above, and from either side, allowing you to be more creative with your angles no matter where the sun is.
Where's the sun? - The position of the sun will have a big impact on your shot. If the sun is directly behind the subject quite late in the day this can make for some great silhouette shots as the camera focuses on the sunset and blacks out the foreground. Sun from the side is ideal for adding texture to faces, buildings and other objects, as long as it's not too harsh.
Position your subject - For portraiture, you'll want to position your subject so that the sun's flattering on them. But, if the sun is facing them, which is ideal for getting rid of shadowing, they'll probably end up squinting which isn't a great look for anyone. A better idea is to have the sun at an angle, and use a reflector to try and eliminate any unwanted shadows. Having the sun behind your subject is good for creating a halo like effect that can make them 'pop' from the scene, and also will create some interesting silhouettes as the sun is setting, too.
Watch out for shadows - Look out for shadows encroaching on your shot from surrounding trees or buildings, and be aware that with the sun behind you, there's a risk of yourself being a shadow on your shot. A badly placed shadow can ruin a photo, and they can be a pain to get rid of in Photoshop so it's best to be vigilant and avoid them.