Shooting Into the sun….flare baby!
I believe that every little trick you have up your sleeve as a photographer can give you an advantage in your market. Do you feel like sometimes all your work starts to look the same?
You know…vertical…….even tones…..smiles………50mm….you get the point! Shooting into the sun is not rocket science, and neither is flare, BUT it is one more tool that you can add to your bag of tricks to offer a different perspective to your photo shoots. (Hopefully I can do a post one day about perspective… because I love to talk about it ;), but for now, I’ll just stick with the sun.)
It’s so important to constantly change things up, give your viewers and your clients something new to look at and hopefully something unexpected. Flare is technically something that is incorrect. The people who make our lenses do everything they can to prevent us from getting flare! What do you think those horrid lens hoods are for?? (And, no, I do not use them…I always say, they are for men who want to make their lenses look bigger☺) When used correctly, flare can be a beautiful thing that adds romance and mystery to your images! Flare is also a great technique when you are in situations where the scenery isn’t ideal. The sign of a great photographer is being able to take a terribly ugly place and transform it into something magical just by using creative lighting.
Below are 5 killer tips that will hopefully help you to master flare and shooting into the sun.
1. Exposure: The number one question I get when talking to people about this technique is how to correctly expose for your subject. It is really important that you shoot in Manual mode to achieve this look. Many people say they shoot manual, but actually don’t. If you are using manual, but you are still determining your iso, shutter speed & aperture by the meter in your camera….you are still letting your camera tell you what to do! You’re camera’s meter is great, but not always correct, especially in a backlit situation. When you are pointed into the sun, you’re camera thinks you are overexposing, so if you set your settings by your meter, you’re subject will be grossly underexposed. In this situation, ignore your meter and just go by you display and histogram. I always expose for my subjects skin. To achieve creamy, beautiful skin, I am just a stop or 2 below overexposing their skin. Make sure that you are using your camera’s highlight indicator. I just make sure that my subjects face is not blinking. In a backlit situation, it is ok for your background to be completely overexposed. This is actually what gives you the dreamy look you are going for.
2. Focusing: Focusing when you are shooting directly into the sun is close to impossible! Again, you are asking your camera to do something that it’s not meant to do. I go ghetto…I use my hand to help me focus. I always center focus, so I will put the red focus area on my subject, then I use my hand to cover as much of the sun coming into my lens as possible. This should get rid of the flare for a second. Once I’ve locked my focus, I remove my hand, recompose, and shoot! Works every time…well not really….Another trick is to use a higher aperture in these situations than you normally would. This allows you some wiggle room if you’re focus isn’t dead on.
3. Time of day: When I first started experimenting with this technique, I pretty much ended up mad a lot. I, for the life of me, couldn’t figure out how to get that blasted sun behind my subjects….duh. I finally realized that for me, I get the best flare when it’s later in the day. If you wait until an hour or so before the sun goes down, you don’t have to lay on the ground to get the sun behind your subjects. I’ve said this before, but the sun seems to have a softness about it as it moves down on the horizon. Of course, I don’t always follow this rule. I will lay on the ground at 3:00 to get the sun behind my subject if need be. One more thing: remember that you don’t necessarily have to be outside to use this technique. You can be inside and have a person’s back to a window or door. I’ll give you several examples below.
4. It doesn’t have to be perfect: Remember that the fun of this technique is not knowing what will happen. As you can see in some of my sample images below, it’s not always necessary to see a person’s whole face. Don’t analyze this too much! If it makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside, go with it. When you shoot into the sun, and get crazy flare, your image might not be perfectly sharp….who cares. Again, this is about creating something fun, and pushing yourself into unknown places. Don’t get caught up in wondering what your clients mother might say if she can’t see her son’s whole left eye! Relax, you gave the 567 perfectly exposed smiling images. Being a photographer is not only about pleasing your clients, it’s about shooting for yourself.
5. Different lenses, different flare: Keep in mind that different lenses produce different results. I’m not an expert on this, but It seems that the nicer the lens, the harder it is to get good flare. I’ve also found it almost impossible to get it from my canon 85mm 1.2. I usually stick to my canon 24mm 1.4, and my canon 50mm 1.2….and if you really want some sweet crazy results, throw on a tilt shift! I’ve been able to get a really neat rainbow effect.
Thank you to Kelly Moore Clark of Kelly Moore Photography for this amazing guest post on Shooting in Sun and Flare. 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.