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Learn to Embrace the Sun
Guest Post, Lighting

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Going back to the early days, just after mastering the manual mode, I remember being totally intimidated by open light. I spent the better part of my first year or so “in the shade” and too scared to try shooting anywhere else. Sounds funny, doesn’t it? One of the most important elements in photography is light, yet I was afraid of it.

An early “in the shade” image.
Learn to embrace the sun

The more I learned and looked around at other photographer’s work, I realized that my photos felt a bit flat, or like they were lacking something.

It was light.

Once I realized that, I decided it was time to step out of my comfort zone, the shade, and have my children step into the light.

WOW, what a difference it made. I finally felt like my photos had the dimension they were previously lacking and so much more visual interest.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Here are a few things I learned along the way:

1. Look for the light
Way back, I was taught that you should shoot at sunrise or sunset to get the best light. Now don’t get me wrong, that golden light sure is GORGEOUS, but with a busy schedule and limited time behind the camera, sunrise and sunset are not always optimal. There is great light at any time of day; you just need to learn to look for it. Some of my favorite places to go include downtown areas where tall buildings will subtly diffuse the light, tree lined walking paths, and open fields. Experiment if you have to. You might surprise yourself and you will definitely learn from your mistakes.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

2. Understand how to position your subject
One last thing that is important to understand is how to position your subject to get the best results and avoid harsh shadows and glaring light.

I will admit, when I first got out there, I felt a little unsure how to best position my subjects so the lighting worked with me, instead of against me. Honestly this is why I clung to the shade for so long.

Have you ever used or heard of the circle test?

I did this quite often on location, especially in an open field where the sun might be pretty high in the sky. I would have my daughter stand up and I would tell her to slowly turn in a circle.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

As she did this, I was paying close attention to the way the light fell on her face. As soon as she stopped squinting, the shadows across her face disappeared, and I could see a hint of reflection in her eyes, I knew that was the direction I wanted to her to face. Also note when you find the right position based on the circle test, if you look at the ground you will see that the shadows are typically in front or to the side of your subject.

So if you are early on in your photography journey and feel intimidated by open light, I highly encourage you to step out of the shade and give it a try! I guarantee you will be hooked and become a lover of light, just like me. Shooting in the shade will be a distant memory.

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

Learn to embrace the sun by Lisa Furey via Click it Up a Notch

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33 Comments
  • February 18, 2014 at 10:53 AM

    You are a brilliant photographer, Lisa! Thank you for always being so generous to share what you’ve learned with others <3

  • February 18, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    Lisa furey is one of my favorites to follow and this is a great article! Thanks click it up a notch and Lisa!

  • Beth
    February 18, 2014 at 12:00 PM

    Thank you Lisa- Great way to start the morning and embrace the light all day long- Beth

  • lyndsy
    February 18, 2014 at 12:49 PM

    I loved this article! Thank you for sharing! I too often play it safe in the open shade. When I shoot in the sunlight, I get those rings or circles on the image, or sometimes a weird spots color on my image. Will a lens hood help this? What can I do?

  • Karin Griffin
    February 18, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    Fantastic confidence builder and great information to challenge photographers to grow in creativity at any skill level! Thank you Lisa for sharing!

  • Amanda
    February 18, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Thanks for a wonderful post! I have just playing with light. It is amazing :) Thanks again, very inspirational.

  • February 18, 2014 at 3:09 PM

    Thank you so much you have beautiful work

  • Kai'
    February 18, 2014 at 3:52 PM

    Awesome post.

  • February 18, 2014 at 5:22 PM

    OMGoodness, I love that Super Woman costume!! I wonder if it is available an XX-Large ;)

  • Kira
    February 18, 2014 at 6:07 PM

    I’ve used the circle test in open shade quite a bit, but shooting in direct sun still freaks me out. I just need to get out and practice with what you’ve said. Thank you! Beautiful photos by the way. I completely love the new dimension light adds in your photos (compared to the first one, which was still cute.)

  • Kathy H
    February 18, 2014 at 6:36 PM

    Thank you for this post and tips on shooting in sunlight. I look forward to having my children do the circle test I only have one issue . . . does anyone know of how to bring some of that sunshine to Seattle? It’s been raining solid here for DAYS and I feel like we are all about to float away. Anyone have inspiration for photography in liquid sunshine?
    Again, thanks for this post. I *hope* to be able to use the circle test sometime soon . . .

  • Julie
    February 18, 2014 at 11:11 PM

    This could not have come at a better time!! My photos are definitely lacking light.. I’m so excited to get out and try it!! Now just so this winter gets ready to pack up and leave I will be on my way!
    Love your photos!!

  • February 19, 2014 at 12:03 AM

    Totally amazing I really appreciate that! Even with all the sun here in Tucson it’s amazing how much sun we have there and how much I have to worry about the harsh shadows. I’ve learned to work with it and sometimes don’t hesitate to use my flash. :P

  • February 19, 2014 at 6:39 AM

    Yes you found me out, i am scared of sunlight. Thank you for these fabulous ideas and stunning photos to show what is possible. Now where is the sun!

  • February 19, 2014 at 4:37 PM

    Thank you for a wonderful post. I really connected with this one as I also have a lot of “in the shade” photos and am working on embracing the sun and light as much as possible!

  • February 20, 2014 at 9:23 AM

    I can’t believe how much I have learned from Lisa. I drool over her photos. I love everything she does. Wonderful article. Thank you so much for sharing this!

  • February 20, 2014 at 2:20 PM

    Lisa is an amazing mentor and friend!! So excited to see her featured on your blog. She has a wealth of information to share and her gifts and talents shine through every photo she captures.

  • February 20, 2014 at 5:53 PM

    Lisa, you are awesome!! Fantastic article loaded with great information. I will always glean anything I can from you, your work is always so lovely!

  • February 21, 2014 at 10:41 AM

    … great images. If sun flare is good enough for Steven Spielberg then it’s good enough for me :)

  • February 27, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Thanks for the tips. I love shooting during the golden hour or when the skies are diffused. I also use shade a lot too, so my goal this spring/summer is to start experimenting more with light and embracing it more. Thanks for the tips.

  • Trisha
    February 27, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    love this post! thanks for the tips and for sharing!! all the pictures are beautiful but the one i like most is the little girl in the water, looks like she’s on a boogie board (second to last pic). love it!! and i’ve also learned a few things too! thanks! :)

  • Linda Parsons
    March 5, 2014 at 9:06 AM

    Fantastic post! I have just started experimenting with all forms of natural light and am having a blast. You work is amazing!

  • March 5, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    I loved this. I live in the valley of the bright sun (AZ) and i usually try to hit some shade. This hit home for me. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • March 29, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    As for me, i love taking sunrise and sunset photos! I don’t know the exact reason why but I just feel unexplained satisfaction from doing it. So, whenever I go out for a jog whether in dawn or afternoon, I always make sure to take a pic of sunset or sunrise.

  • August 16, 2014 at 10:31 PM

    Thank you for this info because I was doing some pictures yesterday and tried to make sure the sun was behind my subject but this is a good rule to use.

  • August 19, 2014 at 8:13 PM

    Oh heavens!! I needed this post so much! I have a 10am session this weekend and was definitely a little worried, but now I am totally stoked to work with the light and hopefully get some amazing images!!

  • Lauren
    April 3, 2015 at 2:22 PM

    great article! So then what settings in your exposure triangle would you typically use so your pictures don’t come out over exposed bc of how bright the sun is during the daytime?

  • Courtney
    April 3, 2015 at 3:52 PM

    I love this!!! I am always trying (and usually failing) to take pictures in mid-day sun since that’s when I’m typically out and about with my daughter, so this is really helpful (and inspiring!)!

  • SarahE
    April 3, 2015 at 4:24 PM

    Thank you for this encouragement! I love to go out in the light though I often have to struggle with “light dots” or flares maybe… (no idea how they are called in English). What do you do to avoid them? Which settings do you use?

    • April 6, 2015 at 12:43 PM

      It sounds like you are referring to lens flare? I avoid them by using a lens hood :)

  • Cara
    April 4, 2015 at 10:19 PM

    Love this post! Thank you for the insight!!

  • Karen Harter
    April 30, 2015 at 9:14 PM

    Lisa, you have a beautiful signature style because I could tell these were your photos just from the lighting! I follow your blog and was so surprised to not only feel like this was your work, but to then recognize your daughter! Thank you for such great advice.

  • Lisa
    September 24, 2015 at 11:55 AM

    Thank you so much! I stress out with high noon lighting and this helps ;)

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