Vancouver has been full of sunny days recently, and we love it! We are sure you have been out and about taking photographs of our beautiful city. However, you probably have noticed that shooting in the broad daylight is challenging–dark shadows, blinding highlights, portraits with unsightly contrasts, and of course the eternal question “can you shoot facing the sun?”–make sunny days an unexpectedly challenging quest. Today we will shine the light on this sunny problem so that you can maximize your photo potential.  If you are an advanced photographer, we hope you will still find some tips useful.

1.Subject vs. background

Sunny days produce harsh contrasts making it easy to practice a very important photography technique of subject vs the background. In order for your photograph to be easily perceived by the viewers, you should strive to place your subject (e.g. people, natural elements like trees and rocks, architectural details, etc.) against a contrasting background. On a sunny day, look for brightly lit branches against dark buildings, or pedestrians dressed in dark clothing against the light gray of the pavement.

Perfect example of dark vs light and vice vera. Photograph by Jordan Oram.
Perfect example of dark vs light and vice vera. Photograph by Jordan Oram.

2. Black & White photography

Shooting in black and white on a sunny day can be an exciting way to experiment with shapes, contrasts, and negative space. By eliminating colour, you can create stark images, especially in an urban setting.

Dark silhouette stands out against lighter pavement.
Dark silhouette stands out against lighter pavement.

3. Shadows

Sunny days bring well pronounced shadows. Hunt down funky-looking shadows between the afternoon and the golden hour. At this time of the day, the shadows are getting longer but they are still well pronounced.

Shadows create an interesting pattern.
Shadows create an interesting pattern.

4. High-speed Photography

Sunny days are perfect for having fun with fast shutter speeds like 1/4000 of a second. Head to nearby fountain for a quick practice.

This photograph was taken at 1/1000 second. By Suzanne Rushton.
This photograph was taken at 1/1000 second. By Suzanne Rushton.

5. Take portraits in the light shade

Unless you are going for a stark contrast intentionally, you probably want to avoid shadows on your model’s face. Seek semi-transparent tree shade and sunlight reflected windows.

Light shade softens sunlight and creates smooth transition between dark and light.
Light shade softens sunlight and creates smooth transition between dark and light.

6. HDR-High Dynamic Range Imaging

Our eyes can see a lot of variation between light and dark. Our cameras–not so much. HDR is a photography technique, where several photographs (typically three) — underexposed, medium, and overexposed — are taken and overlayed in photo editing software. Many phones also can take several photographs on the fly, and overlay them, too. By using HDR, you will be able to increase the dynamic range (range from darkest to brightest) on your photograph.

You can make HDR according to your taste. Some prefer subtle some prefer more obvious HDR shots. Photograph by Suzanne Rushton.
You can make HDR according to your taste. Some prefer subtle some prefer more obvious HDR shots. Photograph by Suzanne Rushton.

7. Make the sun a star!

Make the Sun a star that it is by increasing your aperture. As you may remember from this post, high aperture (f /11 and up) creates starburst appearance of lights. Similarly, you can make the Sun appear like a star rather than a shapeless blob of light. And yes, you can shoot against the Sun with digital cameras.

Photograph by mattharvey1. Used under the Creative Commons License.
Photograph by mattharvey1. Used under the Creative Commons License.

8. Neutral Density filter & long exposure

You can create unusual effects by taking long exposures on a sunny day. All you need is a neutral density filter, which blocks sunlight allowing you to take photographs at slow shutter speeds. Think fountains, waterfalls, or   pedestrian traffic movement shots.

Long exposure done using neutral density filter. Photograph by Karen Blaha. Used under the Creative Commons License.
Long exposure done using neutral density filter. Photograph by Karen Blaha. Used under the Creative Commons License.

9. Polarizing filter

You can improve your photographs by removing glare and unwanted reflections using the polarizing filter. It can make a huge difference in helping you with vibrancy of your photographs.

Photograph by Dave Kirkham. Used under the Creative Commons License.
Photograph by Dave Kirkham. Used under the Creative Commons License.

10. Lens hood

And don’t forget the hood for your lens! It will remove unwanted sun beaming making the way into your shot.

Photograph by Pascal Volk. Used under the Creative Commons License.
Photograph by Pascal Volk. Used under the Creative Commons License.