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5 Tips for Taking Digital Pictures in Bright Sun

Don't Be Afraid of Your Manual Settings

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Hot Air Balloon at Sunrise

Hot Air Balloon at Sunrise

© Judy Hedding

With about 300 days of sunshine every year in the Phoenix area, you can almost be certain that when you make plans you'll have some pretty nice weather. In the summer months, when you take your digital camera along, taking photographs in that bright, blazing summer sun might pose some challenges. If you decide to take that little dial off the automatic setting, these five tips for shooting pictures in the sun are worth experimenting with for better quality images.

5 Tips for Taking Digital Pictures in Full Sun

  1. In sunlight set your ISO to 100, the white balance to auto, and use a higher focal length of your lens. If your lens is 17mm-55mm go closer to the 55mm end.
  2. If you choose to shoot manually, you'll have more control over the image and its quality. Set the aperture to f8 and the speed to 1/250th in bright sunlight (f8 and f11 are usually optimum apertures for lenses and give the best sharpness with least aberrations). If you're knowledgeable enough and you have a particular artistic intention, use other setting combinations.
  3. Try to take the photo in the morning or late afternoon rather than high noon and if you can, circle the object to decide on the most attractive angle. Generally avoid casting your own shadow on the subject. It's often helpful to show some of the shaded parts of the subject because that shows details better than the brightest parts.
  4. To make the image less contrasty, the expedient solution is to fill it with a little flash. This will probably cause some unwanted shadows. Sometimes you can avoid those shadows by turning the camera upside-down and shooting that way. The more attractive solution is to buy a small collapsible reflector (a lot less expensive than a flash unit). Try holding the reflector in a lower position, bouncing the light from the sun up into or horizontally at the subject. This offers infinite variations on lighting and the result will often be more attractive.
  5. These camera settings are really a starting point. A digital image will show much more detail in a print if you are just a little bit underexposed. Keep the f-stop constant and try different exposures by adjusting the speed a little slower or a little faster.

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