Shooting in Full Sun: 8 Incredible Photography Tips

Shooting in Full Sun is not easy.  But thanks to Kelly Moore Clark of Kelly Moore Photography, it just got a little easier. If you have questions for Kelly, please post them in the comment section on my blog (not Facebook) so she will see them and can answer them.

Kelly is a photographer, wife, mom, teacher, and entrepreneur (not necessarily in that order!) from Ruston, LA.  Kelly has been photographing for 12 years now.  Kelly is mom to 2 year old Posey, and wife to hubby, Kelly…yup, she’s married to a man named Kelly!  Kelly enjoys photographing weddings, brides, anything fashion, seniors, and the occasional newborn.  Her style is edgy, rich, and dramatic, and thrives on trying to produce work that is unexpected.

Fun with the Sun! Week 1

For years, I was scared to death of the sun.  I remember getting ready for photo shoots, and praying for overcast days.  If it wasn’t overcast, I would stick to very shady areas.  Don’t get me wrong, shade is not always bad, but if you can venture out into the sun, you will have much more fun, and most importantly it allows you to have a variety of “looks” during your shoot.  One of the things that have inspired me creatively is not having any fear in any lighting situation!

I think fear is what drives us to stay safe, and being safe makes us bored…..and there is nothing worse than a bored photographer!  Over the next few weeks, I’m going to cover a few lighting techniques that will help you to fear no more.
Below are a few steps that will help you be able to shoot in the full sun.

1.    Practice in a dark room with a flashlight. Before you go out into the sun, it helps to see how the light falls on your subject from different angles.   You’ll notice at 12:00 (directly above the subject), if you’re subject is looking at the camera; they will have dark raccoon eyes.  As you move the flashlight to around 3:00, the light source now comes in from the side, lighting the eyes and face nicely.

2.    Stay out of the noon day sun. As I said above, it is tough to shoot in noon day sunlight.  The sun is directly above, and is hard to get flattering light on a person’s face.  If your subject looks straight ahead, you will get nasty dark shadows.   Of course, I always break my own rules, so if I do shoot in the middle of the day, I will have my subject, “bask” in the sun.  This takes away the nasty shadows, and lights the subjects face nicely.



3.    Pay Attention to fun shapes and shadows. If you aren’t paying attention, you’ll miss them!!   If you are worried about all the other photographers in your area stealing your locations, then shadows are for you!  They move quickly, and are gone in a moment.  I’m constantly paying attention to the fun shapes that objects make when the sun shines through them.   The key is to keep your subject in the full sun, and expose for them.  This will make the shadows go extremely dark, and can create an amazing photo!




4.    Shoot in the direct sun an hour or so before the sun sets. As the sun sets, it’s seems to soften, and as it moves lower in the sky, the way it falls on a subject is much more flattering.



5.    Great blue skies! The great part about shooting in direct sun is that it’s super easy to get vibrant blue skies.  Just put your subject in the direct sun, making sure you can see the sky from where you are.  I often find myself lying on the ground in order to get the blue sky in the background.  Since the sun lighting your subject is the same exposure as the sky behind them, the sky will go a beautiful blue!



6.   1, 2, 3, click. I know I know, you’re probably saying….”But my clients can’t open their eyes in the sun.”  Well of course then can’t!  I’ll have my client’s close their eyes, I’ll say, “I’ll count to 3…you open your eyes… can close them as soon as you hear my camera click”.  If this won’t work, no worries….Just let them keep their eyes closed ☺  I do it all the time…they look inspired ☺

7.    Where is the sun coming from? The mood of the photo is directly affected from where the sun is coming from.  One thing I always remember is, “The farther the light source is away from me, the more drama I can get in an image”.  For instance, if the light is coming directly from behind me, the light is extremely flat, and doesn’t have much drama.  As I change my position so that the sun is no longer coming from behind me, but from my right or my left, the lighting in my image becomes more dramatic.  Take a look at the images below, and try to figure out where the sun is coming from in each photo.



8.   Experiment!! The most important thing about shooting in the full sun is that it allows you to have fun.  Just as it is with all things photography, the easiest way to learn how to do something is to experiment with it.  Now go out there and have fun!!!

Jodi Friedman, MCP Actions

Jodi Friedman is the founder of MCP Actions. She designs popular Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets that make editing faster, easier and more fun.

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  1. 2


    Kelly Moore! I can’t get enough of your work girl! You could be in a gopher hole and get amazing light! I’ve never been the same after your workshop.

  2. 3


    Kelly Moore! I can’t get enough of your work girl! You could be in a gopher hole and get amazing light! I’ve never been the same after your workshop.

  3. 5

    Serena Thomas says

    Phenomenal shots and this information is inspiring. I want to run out and play in the sun but have to wait. :) Thanks for sharing.

  4. 8


    These are great tips!! I have used the 1-2-3 click before and it’s pretty funny!! 😉 I also love the “inspired look” of keeping the eyes closed and tilting the head up! Great! Can’t wait to haul some people out into the blinding sun. :)

  5. 9


    Thanks for the great post! I am timid about the sun. I still get out there… but just a wee bit timid. Been trying to get a good balance with reflectors and strobes. 😀 But I learned lots from your post, I think I will be able to put all that down for a few shots to get something different! 😀

  6. 12


    Fabulous images!! I adore your work. A question I have is how do you maintain sharp focus in direct sun? I use auto focus and notice that sometimes it’s difficult to get sharp images when it’s ultra sunny out. Thanks so much!

  7. 18

    Debbie says

    Two questions: Do you like to include flare? And, were some of the last shots done with a lensbaby?
    Thank you….love to get all the info I can on shooting in direct sun, backlighting, using flare.

  8. 19


    I opened up this post expecting the usual fun sun tips; put the sun behind, shoot in the shade, yadda yadda.

    Instead, these are excellent tips, and things I hadn’t considered before. Actually using the sun to advantage, getting an ‘inspired’ look,etc. Thanks, these are very helpful.

  9. 21


    Hey Guys! Thanks so much for the comments! I’m excited to share on MCP blog, and become a part of this great community.
    I’m going to try and answer a few of you guys questions below:

    I don’t use reflectors often…I lost mine at the airport a year or so back, and never took the time to buy another one :) They are great tools, but during this season of my life, I’m not using one. I do use flash often, but not in any of the images from this post.

    I do include flare all the time…stay tuned, that’s going to be my next post!
    Also, no lensbaby. I use a 45mm tilt shift.

    Actually when shooting in full sun, I don’t think I ever have trouble focusing. To me, the sun actually helps me focus. Sorry if I’m not answering your question! Now when I’m shooting INTO the sun, it’s a different story, but I’ll cover that in my next post.

    You didn’t ask anything…just wanted to say, I love you girl!



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