Our Friend the Sun (Part 1 of 3)

1) Lighting and Your Camera

Now that you’ve learned about Composition, you're on your way to become a better photographer! The next topic is the most powerful source of lighting on earth: the sun. The sun is one of those factors that can really make or break a photo. Why is the sun so important? Light is essentially the basis on how a camera captures a photo:

 A simplified diagram of how a camera captures a photo.

A simplified diagram of how a camera captures a photo.

To put it really simply, when you hit the button to capture a photo, light comes in through the lens, hits the electronic sensor (digital cameras) or film (analog cameras), and turns it into an image. Sure there’s different techniques with shutter speed, ISO, and aperture during different situations to help during low light, but let’s worry about that later. Part 1 of the lighting series focuses on Location of the Light Source:

2) Location of the Light Source

The Location of the Light Source is key. Unless you want to shoot a dramatic sunset with objects silhouetted, you don’t want the sun behind your subject or else they’ll be pretty dark. Try to keep the sun behind you or to the side of you:

 Bad Positioning - Sun behind the subject

Bad Positioning - Sun behind the subject

 Good Positioning - Sun lighting the subject

Good Positioning - Sun lighting the subject

What’s amazing about the sun is that as it moves throughout the day, thus the appearance of your subject will change with it. Shadows of your subject become longer and more dramatic during sunrise and sunset. Colors of your subject become deeper and more vibrant. I love shooting during these times because of how different the same thing can look. Check out the same image of the Grand Tetons during sunset and sunrise:

 The Grand Tetons during sunset as the sun is behind the mountains.

The Grand Tetons during sunset as the sun is behind the mountains.

 The Grand Tetons during sunrise as the sun is hitting the mountains.

The Grand Tetons during sunrise as the sun is hitting the mountains.

Thank you so much for reading! In 2 weeks, I’ll be describing one of my favorite times to shoot: Golden Hour. Be sure to subscribe to receive updates and follow @HappyPandaTravels on Instagram for inspirations!

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