6 Ways a Sunny Day Can Affect Your Photos (With Examples)
Whether you're a photographer, a business owner, or an influencer, two things remain certain: you need lots of images, and those images must be on-brand. You want your fans to run across a picture and know within 0.2 seconds flat that it's yours! Amirite??
That's the dream, and I'm sure you've already contemplated it. You've probably nailed down your core colors, editing style, visual elements to include and maybe even the overall vibe. But there's one HUGELY important component - which can drastically alter the consistency of your photos - that many of us fail to consider when starting out: LIGHT.
You want to be sure and take your photos on a sunny day, right? It's only one type of lighting situation; can't be too complicated, right?? All you have to do is stick to sunny days and your brand imagery will continue to look cohesive, right??? Okay, sorry, that was a setup. It's not quite right.
In reality, shooting under a clear blue sky can still create a multitude of results in your photography, depending on when and where exactly the subject is positioned. Let's compare some of those outcomes (with visual examples of course!), so you can be better prepared when deciding what you want your personal look to be.
MID-DAY: ANGLED SUNLIGHT
Here we have our senior, Mckenzee, outside in full sun in the early afternoon. To be more specific, the sun is shining down on her at an angle from above. This causes some pretty harsh shadows in basically any area that's "under" a facial feature (under her eyes, cheeks, nose, and chin). The image is naturally crisp and bright.
This can be a great way to add an edge to your photos. Depending on how you use the shadows to your advantage, you can even make the bright parts of the image pop out more effectively.
MID-DAY: OPEN SHADE
This is around the same time of day, but now we have moved Mckenzee to the side of a building where the sun is no longer hitting her from any direction (you guys know what shade looks like). Do take note that there is nothing but the open sky above her head. In this scenario, instead of light vs. dark sections, the image will be one global mid-range. As a result, you'll have lots of flexibility with brightness in the editing stage.
If you want your images to be evenly lit or understated, open shade could be your optimal choice. It's also very flattering for portraits as there are no unwanted dark areas on the skin.
HARSH SUNLIGHT: FULL EXPOSURE
Now it's late afternoon / early evening, and the sun is lower in the sky. This means it's shining RIGHT in Mckenzee's face. You can see clearly where she turned her head away from the light as the right half of her face is drastically darker. If you want a flawless portrait, this lighting scenario won't be your friend. As you can see, everything appears more orange-y in this example (including teeth - yikes!)
You can generate some very high-contrast photos in harsh sunlight (hello, drama!). If your brand is all about warm tones or living life under the sun, try this one on for size!
HARSH SUNLIGHT: PARTIAL EXPOSURE
Here we're keeping Mckenzee facing toward the sun, but simply placing her under a tree. Notice the way the shadows of the leaves play throughout the image. Many times trees can't be used to sufficiently shield the subject form the sun entirely. But, use spotty shade such as this strategically, and you could create some very interesting imagery.
Indulge in some artistic expression for your photography! To produce a particular pattern across your subject, filter harsh sunlight through an object, such as leaves, a straw hat, or lace!
GOLDEN HOUR: DIRECT SUNLIGHT
Golden hour is that window of time just before sunset where the sun is low enough in the sky that its light gets refracted through the atmosphere (or something scientific like that). Effectively, it means that for a brief moment, the light stops being harsh. It mimics open shade in that the lighting is once again even, only now the colors will be a bit more vibrant. You can even spot Mckenzee's pink undertones coming out to play.
Golden hour is great if you prefer a cool-toned image. This lighting also offers a subtle glow as opposed to sharp contrast. It can be super favorable for portraits, since the soft light fills all those cracks and crevices!
GOLDEN HOUR: BACKLIT
Here we are again just before true sunset, but now Mckenzee's back is turned toward the sun. We are seeing the dark side of the trees, and the subject isn't receiving direct light. Logically, this results in more subdued colors. Be careful about waiting too late to snag a shot in this light, unless you're going for a silhouette! It can quickly become difficult to properly expose for someone's face as the sun goes down.
The sunlight streaming in from behind will be the life of the photo. Face your subject away from the sun as it dips behind the trees and capture the light trickling through the leaves!
Isn't it amazing how remarkably different images can sometimes turn out when taken within hours of one another? Did you determine which effect was right for your particular brand? Definitely save this post on Pinterest for the next time you have a shoot! And if you need some advice for what to do in the event of a cloudy day, check out these tips. As always, let me know what questions you may have. Now go explore some lighting and get creative!