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mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,943
49,141
Welcome to our P52! This project is designed to get you out with your camera once a week in a meaningful way. Each week I will post a prompt for you to consider. The prompts are merely suggestions, and you are free to shoot off topic if you wish. All images posted must be taken by you, be safe for work, and be taken with this project in mind. Please do not post archive photos. For a further discussion of the guidelines, please refer to this thread, and you can find the previous weeks linked there if you missed them. Feel free to join in at any time of the year, and you may go back to missed weeks if you still wish to participate.

Week 24: Full Sun

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I find it a bit ironic that I am writing this lesson as the first drops of rain begin to fall, after none for the past month or so. But here we are, the schedule tells me this is full sun week, so full sun shall be the topic.

There is an art and a science to shooting in full sun, and it’s an important skill to learn. Many of us in this group are nature or travel photographers, or some combination thereof, and in these genres, we often must work with the weather at hand on any given day. Learning to shoot in full sun is as critical a skill as learning to use window light indoors; who wants to travel to a new vacation spot, then either not photograph anything, or have all your images ruined by the sun? Not me! I have many ruined (or more likely deleted) countless images from my earlier years as a photographer where I was unable to control for highlights, and while my subject might be exposed okay, the rest of the image has large blown spots.

2023-06-12_0001.jpg


As we briefly touched on in the Window Light lesson a few weeks ago, metering for full sun is a little different than metering for even lighting. With full sun, there is a wide dynamic range that is often outside the bounds of a camera to capture. Newer generation cameras have much better dynamic range than in years past, but always best to meter properly in camera, rather than crossing our fingers that we got the shot. When shooting for full sun, you will want to make sure to meter for the highlights, even if your subject is not in the highlights. We can almost always raise shadows (and then reduce noise if necessary), but once an area in your image is blown (too bright or too white), it is devoid of information, and reducing highlights will not bring back any detail.

I have largely assumed most of you know how to meter properly, and based on the work I have seen for the past few months, I think that is a fairly safe assumption. But I’m going to chat a bit about my own thought process when metering, and why I make the choices I do. As with most things in life, there is more than one way to do things, and if you have a process that works for you already, you should definitely stick to it!

Assuming my camera has the option (I have several film cameras where this is not an option), one of the very first things I do when getting a new body is to set my camera to Spot metering mode. For both my Nikon and Fuji bodies, spot metering is tied to the active focal point; you will want to check the manual for your own camera body, as some cameras will only meter from the center focal point. Once you have determined which focal point(s) you can use for metering, use that box over the brightest point in your photo; a white dress or flower, maybe even just the cheek of a fair skinned human; whatever is the lightest area in the image, use that as your metering point.

With spot metering, your camera is using a very small area of the entire frame to determine your exposure settings. Also keep in mind that your camera wants to make everything middle gray. Most cameras by default are setup to Matrix or Evaluative metering, both of which take a look at a larger portion of the overall frame, and then recommend exposure settings based on whether there is a lot of light or dark in your image, or even a lot of midtones, and then tries to balance it all out. With spot metering, you are telling the camera, even if the highlights are a small area of my image, that is what is important to me and I don’t care if the rest of the image goes to shadow.

But don’t forget the second half - the camera wants to make everything middle gray. So if you meter for a white flower, but leave your exposure settings at -0- your white flower will become a gray flower. We want whites to be white, but not blown out. So once you have your focal point on top of your white flower (or lightest area of the frame), set your exposure settings somewhere around 1.5 stops OVER -0-. This will ensure that your white flower is actually white, but not so “over” exposed that it loses detail. If you don’t shoot in manual mode, you can do the same thing with Exposure Compensation; just set EC to approximately 1.5 stops over. Also, keep an eye on your histogram while shooting, if that is an option on your camera, to make sure you don’t have any details crawling up the right side, indicating a loss of detail in the whites.

Once we are set to meter for the highlights, we can get to shooting. I shoot a lot of landscapes in full sun, because I am typically out mid-day. Even if it isn’t high noon, you may be dealing with full sun for 6-10 hours of the day, depending on location and time of year. Those of you far north may have literal days of full sun.

Shooting full sun images might require a bit more work in post to deal with the shadows. Again, newer cameras often have a lot of detail that can be drawn out simply by raising the shadows and blacks sliders in whatever editing program you use. Also, depending on the subject and individual frame, working with shadows might be desirable design choice in your photos.

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If you are photographing a human subject (and I hope you are all practicing on humans each week, even if you keep the images private) you’ll need to be a bit deliberate with posing so as not to have your subject come across with “racoon eyes” and deeply shadowed eye sockets. One good trick is to just shoot from behind them and create faceless portraits. Another is to have your subject wear sunglasses, therefore eliminating the risk of shadows. Or you can use the hard light as a creative light source and go for something like split or high fashion lighting. Shooting at the beach or near a lighter colored building offers surfaces that act as natural reflectors and can help to open shadows with minimal work in post.

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Full sun can give you brilliant blue skies, and I admit I love to shoot midday at the beach. If you want to preserve clouds in a blue sky on a bright day, make sure that you shoot with the sun at your back; if that’s not possible, then you will have to make a judgment call as to whether or not you are okay with some of the sky being blown. Although I said above to meter for the brightest part of your image, I will allow skies to blow if it preserves buildings or human subjects in the photo.

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Also keep in mind that you can shoot in full sun in the morning and evening outside of traditional golden hour. As long as your subject has the sun falling directly on it, it would still be considered a full sun image; when choosing to shoot at the ends of the day you might be able to get some lovely light flares or sunbursts to add in some atmosphere to your photo.

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If you end up with a particularly cloudy or overcast week, feel free just to shoot off theme and come back when the weather is more cooperative for this theme. 🙂
 

kenoh

macrumors demi-god
Jul 18, 2008
6,507
10,850
Glasgow, UK




2 pictures taken on Calton Hill in Edinburgh this weekend. My youngest daughter and I picked up my wife from the airport and we headed into Edinburgh to enjoy the sunshine. While we were there, we headed up Calton Hill to see the new buildings and it was lovely. These images were taken in full sunshine.
 

OldMacs4Me

macrumors 68020
May 4, 2018
2,239
28,951
Wild Rose And Wind Belt
Took this shot as I have a feeling the colored rocks are going to lose their color in short order. Keeping the receipts and will have a print of this when the time comes to make a complaint. Anyways it certainly qualifies as full sun. I did slightly bump the saturation level, so it would not be a totally boring post.

P6120202A.jpg
 

OldMacs4Me

macrumors 68020
May 4, 2018
2,239
28,951
Wild Rose And Wind Belt
So looking like full sun may be elusive this week. Here's what I've got so far. All images Oly TG-6 camera.

This was a catch it as I floated by image. Used my normal matrix metering @ -.7 EBV. No time for fancy metering.
P6130209.jpg


The Zenia was also with an EBV of -.7 stop.
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No compensation on (or for) this image.
P6130205.jpg
 

arkitect

macrumors 604
Sep 5, 2005
7,217
14,055
Bath, United Kingdom
This is certainly full sun! 🌞

Lately I have been trying to capture better photos with my iPhone. I have to confess I find it a lot easier to just snap with my iPhone than lugging my camera with me — especially when hiking and travelling. In the bag, or in the hand? (And it is only a smallish Sony A6500!)

Anyway, here is a full sun iPhone 13 pic… Strong watercolour effects all round, unfortunately. 🤨

Kelston Hill.jpeg

iPhone 13
 

mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,943
49,141




2 pictures taken on Calton Hill in Edinburgh this weekend. My youngest daughter and I picked up my wife from the airport and we headed into Edinburgh to enjoy the sunshine. While we were there, we headed up Calton Hill to see the new buildings and it was lovely. These images were taken in full sunshine.
love the second one ken.
 
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mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,943
49,141
Took this shot as I have a feeling the colored rocks are going to lose their color in short order. Keeping the receipts and will have a print of this when the time comes to make a complaint. Anyways it certainly qualifies as full sun. I did slightly bump the saturation level, so it would not be a totally boring post.

View attachment 2217527
it's almost a heart shape!
 
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mollyc

macrumors 604
Original poster
Aug 18, 2016
7,943
49,141
  • Like
Reactions: bondr006
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