Why NOT to shoot on a bright sunny day?

On a monday morning, I get a call from a prospect client who seemed to have liked my work and were looking forward to shoot the very next day. First thing, I looked up for the weather and saw it to be bright, clear and sunny. A beautiful day to shoot! Yes, thats what everyone thinks when they see a clear and sunny weather. But seemed like I had to learn it the hard way. 

I went ahead and confirmed the shoot and asked the couple to show up at 10am in the morning. As expected it was bright and sunny day. We went to the beautiful location of Collierville Town Square garden for the shoot. Trains, Graffities, Gazebos, and many more landscape to give a perfect look and theme to the couple shoot.

The couple arrived at the location before time, and looked very excited for the shoot. So was I! Had a lot of concepts in my mind and I was so looking forward to execute those. 

I started shooting the couple nwxt to the train first with sun on the opposite side of the train. So basically I was shooting the couple in the shade of the train. Click, Click, click and the I did a bit of chimping (photographer who looks on the camera display to check how the shots came out). The shots came out to be really good, but there was somethin which didnt feel right. The exposure on the couple was just right, while rest of the picture looked clipped (section of the photo which is entirely blown up i.e. either too dark or too bright. In this case, bright). 

My photographer instincts kicked in fast and I decieded to increase the shutter speed (to reduce the natural light intensity), but i had a limitation too. I wasnt using HSS (high speed sync) flashes. So the max I can go is 1/200th of a second. Tried that and the shot came out OK.

Assuming everything will be alright, I asked the couple to move to the train tracks (not a live track. Please never ever shoot on a live train track, even if the photographer asks you to). The challenege, the sun was right on top and there was no shade at all. Asked the couple to pose and took few shots. It was so clipped and the subject's faces had very very strong shadows. Utterly dissappointed, I decieded to use a flash to fill in the shadows. Again facing the limitation of not being able to go more than 1/200th of a second, I took few shots with the flashes. Took a look again at the shots and it wasn't right. 

What was going wrong?? Finished the shoot with a heavy heart. I showed the pics to the couple, and they liked it. Not me! From a photographer's point of view everythin was just so wrong!

Summation of what I am trying to say through this blog is:

  • Sun is a very dense source of light. Its so dense that it cannot be considered as a soft source of light. This type of light is what we call it as harsh light. Why? Because it produces harsh shadows. Remmeber whereever there is light, there has to be shadows. And if you need good pictures, stay away from conditions which would produce harsh shadows. And it gets practically impossible to get rid of those, no matter what software you use for editing. Hence, please say NO to shoot if its sunny!

  • Always use flash! If its sunny, the more is the need of a flash. Why? As said, harsh light produces harsh shadows and you can lighten up those shadows using a flash. However, i would still stick to the golden rule: do NOT agree for a shoot if the weather is sunny and the sun is out!

  • Always prefer shooting during Dusk or Dawn. That's the time when the sun is optimal for the camera lens. Trust me, the photographer can get creative if there is a bit of sunlight (neither a lot, nor no sunlight at all).

  • High Speed Sync compatible flashes is a must! That way you wont be limited to shoot with a limitation of 1/200th of a second. You can go upto 1/8000th of a second and can produce amazing result! This way you can reduce the natural light to a max, and can still use flash without the curtains of your lens showing up on the photo.

If I want to summarize in one line what I am trying to convey here is: say NO to shoot on a sunny day and prefer to shoot during the dusk or dawn, to get amazing pictures. You are payin money (photographers: you are building memories for your client). So please do not take a chance and do justice to your work/effort/money!



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