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How To Shoot In And Edit For Harsh Lighting

Here is a good before and after for y'all. Shooting in direct sunlight can be a challenge. However, I have had to learn to shoot in many situations that aren't ideal. So, I have learned my way around editing for direct sunlight shots. If you are intimidated by shooting outside in harsh lighting with no cloud coverage, just remember that it is doable. Hopefully these tips will help you along your photography journey!

Always Shoot In RAW

Shooting in RAW allows the digital info of the colors, highlights, shadows, etc. to be manipulated at the base level. Every bit of information that the camera gathers onto the sensor for the photo is stored in a RAW file. Shooting in the JPEG format compresses the file and causes the image to loose some of the necessary information for total manipulation. A RAW file keeps all of this information. However, RAW files are very large, so you will have to clear your memory cards more often.

Face Your Subject Away From The Sun

Facing your subject away from the sun is always a good practice when shooting in direct sunlight. This will allow for a shadowed area on all or part of the subject's face. It is much easier to brighten up shadowed areas than it is to darken areas that are too bright or blown out. So, as a general rule, have your subjects face away from the sun. Facing toward the sun can be done, but you may have to do some extra editing to make corrections.

Seek Shade

This is one of the most obvious rules for shooting outside in direct sunlight. Any kind of shade can help with evening out that harsh lighting. Shadows from trees and buildings work great for this. Any kind of shade will help. Sometimes, shooting in the shade with harsh lighting outside can provide for a great picture. The subject stays well lit, and the splotchy lighting is avoided. You can also get a great photo by using shadows from small objects such as cars and light poles. Place your subject close to the object, and block the sun with the object. This can create a cool effect of the sun coming around the object and almost framing the subject.

Change Your Editing Style

This is more of a warning than a tip, but you may have to change up your editing style in order to compensate for the harsh lighting of direct sun photography. Don't be afraid to learn new editing techniques. Play around with a photo until you arrive at something that you are happy with. The new techniques that you learn just may become a permanent change to your editing style. Learning something new with editing is never a bad thing.

Don't Be Intimidated

Shooting in harsh lighting seems like a big deal if you are not familiar with it, but it really is doable. It's easy to go into your comfort zone when taking photos, but stepping out of that box is when you learn new things. It doesn't cost anything to take extra photos and to take risks with those. Try new things, and if they don't work out, learn from them. Experience is the best way to learn new things. Therefore, shooting in harsh lighting is the best way to learn how to shoot in harsh lighting. Just get out there and do it!

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