Taking a Better Picture #3

Tip #3: Get out of the sun – whatever you’re shooting probably looks better in the shade.

Full sun can be bad for picture taking. Painful grimaces from sun in the eyes won’t make for the natural, relaxed portrait that you’d like to take. And the garden that is so rich in color and detail will be reduced to a choppy mess of white reflections on green leaves with black shadows when the bright morning or mid-day sun is blaring down on it.

Look at this example of Hubbs holding the herb bouquet. My eye sees the green blob of leaves and then its drawn right down to the dark shadow-shapes that break up the hand and the sweatshirt below it.

Then we stepped into the shade and tried again. Now we can see all the differences in color and leaf quality that’s happening in the bouquet, and my eye isn’t drawn away from the subject by distracting shadow-shapes and lines.

Here’s another example. First, books outside in so much afternoon sun that I mainly notice the triangular shadows.

Here’s the pile of books moved to the shade – I can actually read some of the titles now, and I pay more attention to the books than to the shadows created by the books.

Warning! Look for solid shade with no mottling. Tree branches and lattices can create shadows that look bad on books, and even worse on faces. Look closely at your subjects’ face when you get ready to snap the picture, and make sure they don’t have shadows splotched across them.

So look at the picture before you click the shutter, and if you see lots of harsh shadows, try reposing the picture in a shady spot. Another fun thing to experiment with is waiting till the early morning or late afternoon when the sunlight is nice and diffused to take your picture. You can also get great results on an overcast day when the clouds remove all the harsh shadows for you. You (and your subject!) will be much happier with the results.


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