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Sun as Your Main Light

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

This evening’s Canon workshop is about shooting with the sun as your main light source. Jon Lorentz, Senior Trainer at Canon, explained his photography experience with shooting with the sun as his only available light source.

The time of day, from early morning to late afternoon, will affect the appearance of the photograph. The composition and mood will change because of the amount of light available, the shading, and shadows. At different times of the day, the same scene might emit a different mood, whether dramatic, optimistic, or natural. Take into consideration the lens you are using, such as 35mm, 50mm, or telephoto. Sunset scenes tend to look dramatic, while sunshine scenes positive and optimistic. Tie an emotion to every experience, which will create different effects. Exposure, people’s expressions, emotions, connection with the subject/model, direction of light, even if it is cloudy, all play an important role in the overall appearance of the photograph.

When looking through your camera, ask yourself, where is the light coming from? Be aware of the backlighting and rim lighting, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

It is also important to note the contrast between light and shadow in order to create depth in the image. Know when you need more lighting or shadow to create a particular mood, emotion, theme, or appearance. Play with your available lighting to make it work for you, which in this case is the natural sunlight, whether a bright sun, cloudy day, overcast, afternoon sun, or sunset.

Canon has a Picture Style Editor that helps you deal with this. I still use a film camera. So, I doubt if I have this feature on my Minolta and Canon cameras.

During the morning hours, there tends to be more natural lighting, while during the afternoon hours, there is more shade. Know exactly what you want to do, how you will do it, and what time of day will help you achieve that particular look. Prepare and plan ahead of time, but be always aware that there will also be unexpected changes.

While taking photos, maintain highlights on your subject. Make sure it is balanced and even. Contrast has shadows to create drama.

Create an inspiration board or mood board of your favorite styles, scenes, and photos. Use the subject/model’s music to help put them in the mood as well as relax them. A happy subject/model will lead to a happy photographer with great photos. Always prepared for the unexpected. Put together an emergency bag, filled with first aid kit as well as other emergency items, which might include water, snacks, jacket, clothes, sunblock, etc.

Some places might require a photo permit. Ask authority in the area if it is OK to do a photo shoot.

Also, research Photo Copyright Laws.

Open shade involves the subject has the same amount of light because he/she is standing in the shade, an there is no direct sunlight hitting the subject. But when there is bright sunshine, open shade will create great photos.


What do you think?


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    • thanks. I have been into photography since I bought my first camera, Minolta 5000 50mm with my college graduation money in 1987. I even learned how to develop my own film, both color and black/white, although I eventually decided not to do a dark room. it has been a fun hobby since the 90s, where I photographed 3 weddings, parties, street photography, and mannequin photography.

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