How to Shoot into Direct Sunlight

Converse Shoreline CLU Ruffle Top-65

Timex “Fairfield” Watch c/o / CLU Top (A Shopbop sale find! Dying over this dress and this top. Someone who isn’t preggo, please wear, hehe.) / Converse Shoreline Sneakers c/o / Moon and Lola Necklace c/o — Elephant, pineapple and letter charms / Tory Burch Earrings / Similar Sunglasses (On sale!) / Paige Jeans (Mine are the maternity version)

Shooting into direct sunlight is one of my absolute favorite photography techniques, but I don’t do it as often as I like since I typically miss the “Golden Hour” — when shadows are longer, the light is softer, and everything is “warmer.” While on vacation, though? We’re always available during it, and we have all the time in the world to fool around with lighting. SO FUN. (Also, my adorable navy-and-white striped Timex watch is set to Central Time, haha. So, in reality, it was almost 6 p.m. when these photos were taken.)

Wondering how to shoot directly into the sun without getting that overly backlit look?

Here’s how I do it:

As you can probably tell, the sun was beginning to set when these pics were snapped. I set my ISO to 500, my shutter speed to 1/3200, and my aperture to f/3.2. (FYI: I’m using 50mm lens. A 35mm lens is its equivalent when used on a consumer-grade camera! Super important to use a “prime” lens here.)

The main goal was achieving a relatively wide aperture to get that beloved bokeh effect (blurry background), and a fast shutter speed to avoid a completely blown-out photo. I definitely could have gone lower with the ISO (the camera’s sensitivity to light), but I think I’d previously set it to 500, and just quickly made up for it with a faster shutter speed. Truth: when you’re shooting with your husband, you often skip corners so as not to torture him. Also, I LOVE fast shutter speeds as they make everything look a lot crisper!

In terms of aperture, I typically like to go a bit wider when I’m shooting–somewhere in the f/2.5 to f/2.8 range for portraits and even wider for details–but when I’m asking others to take my photos, I like to make sharpness super attainable and easy. f/3.2 assures me that I’ll see great bokeh yet sharp and in-focus subjects.

When it was snapping time, I stood in a somewhat shaded area with the sun behind me, and Mitch took the photos. Finding shade takes some scouting, for sure. It isn’t 100-percent necessary, but it makes the job easier. Notice how in some of the photos, I’m not standing in the shade. Those shots are harsher or even slightly overexposed.

Because the sun was so strong and shining right at Mitch, depth was a little lost in the unprocessed photos. So, using Lightroom, I lowered the “blacks” to -75, sharpened the photo to +70, and upped the exposure a bit to make up for the “blacks.” And voilà! This is the result. It takes a little practice, but it’s super easy once you get the hang of it!

But back to vacation. My Timex watch tells me it’s time for another long walk on the beach with Mitch and Noodle. :)

Learn more: How I Edit Photos in Lightroom

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Testing lighting on Mitch. But seriously: how awesome is this?! Mitchinthecity.com coming soon. ;) Kidding, kidding…

Shop the post:

Timex “Fairfield” Watch c/o / CLU Top (A Shopbop sale find! Dying over this dress and this top. Someone who isn’t preggo, please wear, hehe.) / Converse Shoreline Sneakers c/o / Moon and Lola Necklace c/o — Elephant, pineapple and letter charms / Tory Burch Earrings / Similar Sunglasses (On sale!) / Paige Jeans (Mine are the maternity version)

  • Sara Mendoza

    Love ‘the mitch’ look:)

    • Hehe! I’m seriously obsessed with it and think it’s the cutest. He wasn’t trying to pose — Just a normal lighting setup shot… but doesn’t it look like he’s modeling?! LOVE IT.

    • Hehe! I’m seriously obsessed with it and think it’s the cutest. He wasn’t trying to pose — Just a normal lighting setup shot… but doesn’t it look like he’s modeling?! LOVE IT.

  • Cracking up over Mitch’s blog name debut….so funny. These photos turned out so incredible. I hope you and the little one have been feeling great :)

    26 and Not Counting

    • GIRL! I miss you! (That sounds creepy because we’re internet friends, haha. But you know.) I hope things are going well for you — Have fun on that Miami trip; so jealous! And thank you!

      • Haha, likewise! I’m pretty sure I’ve said far creepier things ;) The internet is weird like that. Thank you :) I’m so excited to be down there by the water!

    • GIRL! I miss you! (That sounds creepy because we’re internet friends, haha. But you know.) I hope things are going well for you — Have fun on that Miami trip; so jealous! And thank you!

  • Great post, Kelly! I love your photography and editing tips, they are SO helpful! Hope you’re having a great vacation!

  • The photos are beautiful and lighting is incredible even though you were talking another language lol! Mitch’s pose is ON POINT TOO lol!

    http://asequinloveaffair.com

    • You are the funniest, Shira. So much easier than you think — I swear! Really fun, too! xoxo

    • You are the funniest, Shira. So much easier than you think — I swear! Really fun, too! xoxo

  • These pictures are so gorgeous! I love your striped watch!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com

  • These pictures are so gorgeous! I love your striped watch!

    xoxo,
    Katie
    chicincarolina.blogspot.com

  • Gorgeous pictures!

    Liz @ ShoppingMyCloset.com

  • Thanks for the photo tips! You look super cute pregnant. :)

    Jennifer Almarine Beu

    • Aww, thank you, Jennifer! I’m not feeling so cute, haha, so this made my night! xoxo

  • Thanks for the photo tips! You look super cute pregnant. :)

    Jennifer Almarine Beu

  • I love these tips. I also am confused by bloggers that claim to give camera tips but they are NEVER behind the lens I love how you get everything set up and Mitch pulls the trigger, err, clicks the button! :)

    • Thank you, Lindsay! I definitely think it’s important to learn the camera yourself, as you’re the one with the vision. While my husband is an artistic guy, he’s not passionate about photography (more into video), and therefore I think it wouldn’t be right to ask him to master the art of it just for the sake of this blog! But mostly I’m just a control freak. ;) Thanks for stopping by, Girl! xoxo

    • Thank you, Lindsay! I definitely think it’s important to learn the camera yourself, as you’re the one with the vision. While my husband is an artistic guy, he’s not passionate about photography (more into video), and therefore I think it wouldn’t be right to ask him to master the art of it just for the sake of this blog! But mostly I’m just a control freak. ;) Thanks for stopping by, Girl! xoxo

  • I love these tips. I also am confused by bloggers that claim to give camera tips but they are NEVER behind the lens I love how you get everything set up and Mitch pulls the trigger, err, clicks the button! :)

  • Sarah H.

    Thanks so much for sharing these photo tips! Maybe I should go to the beach to test them out? That seems like the best idea.

    ~Sarah of Sarah’s Real Life

  • Emily

    Love these tips! Beautiful pics, too! My husband takes my pictures, so it is great to have some more tips to give him :)

    emily
    http://www.deltachic.com

  • Golden hour perfection! Love the Mitch cameo – Hi Mitch!!!

  • I LOVE THESE PICTURES SO MUCH! Especially the backwards hat Mitch grand finale

  • I LOVE THESE PICTURES SO MUCH! Especially the backwards hat Mitch grand finale