How to Take Photos of Your Children in Full Sun


Summer photography is full of childhood memories just waiting to be captured such as children splashing at the pool, kids playing at the local playground, or riding their bikes through the neighborhood. Unfortunately, these moments are not limited to the times of day in which the light is perfect. In a lot of cases, bedtime is before sunset which limits those opportunities even more. You don’t have the luxury of sitting around all day, waiting for the perfect light. Sunrise, sunset and over-cast days are ideal, but what do you do when your child is doing something worth photographing, and it’s the middle of summer when the sun is the highest in the sky? Today, we offer a few ideas for how to take photos of your children in full sun. 

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1. Find Some Shade (or create it)

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Shade will be your best friend on sunny days, but you may have to get creative. Look for anything that can cast enough shade for your children to play or sit in such as trees, a tunnel, play equipment, or even an open garage. If you don’t have any shade, create it. Bring an extra set of hands and have them hold up an umbrella or poster board. Or, you can step directly in front of your kids to create a shadow. Whatever you do, avoid situations where your child’s face is divided between sun and shade (including dappled light coming through the trees). Change your angle or move your children so that they are 100% in the sun or in the shade.

2. Shoot in Manual Mode

The best way to shoot in full sun is to shoot in manual mode. [If you’re not there yet, we will be talking about manual settings over the next few months, so stay tuned.] You certainly don’t have to shoot in manual, but by doing so, you can do a few things that auto settings just can’t do.

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Metering: Use spot metering mode and meter off of your child’s face for proper exposure. Specifically, you want to meter from a focal point rather than the center of the frame (if your camera has that option). Of course, be sure to keep an eye on your light meter while you move around. The slightest change of angle can drastically change your exposure.

White Balance: Many DSLRs have the ability to select different white balance settings. You can certainly adjust these settings in post-processing (especially if you are shooting RAW), but choosing the right setting at the time of your shoot can save time.

ISO:  Set your ISO as low as possible; typically at 100. This will prevent you from overexposing too much.

2. Backlighting

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To avoid squinty eyes, turn your children away from the sun as much as possible. More specifically, put the sun behind them and take advantage of an effect we call “backlighting.” At this angle, you’ll notice shade on their face and you will be shooting straight into the brightest sun. Be sure to meter the light off your child’s face for proper exposure. Take multiple shots from multiple angles, and experiment with over-exposure. You may even like the hazy effect that backlighting offers. You can also use fill flash, but that concept requires a lot more explanation. 

3. Reflectors

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A less complicated way to fill shadows is by using a reflector. Reflectors will bounce light up onto your child’s face, even if their back is to the sun, with significantly less harsh light. They can also be a great way to get a “busy” child’s attention. You can tease them into laying on the reflector while you snap away.

4. Change Your Perspective

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Sometimes it’s not possible to move your child (or they are so busy playing, you’d hate to interrupt them), but that doesn’t mean that you can’t move around them. Try moving to the other side of your child, shooting directly above, or getting down low and shooting up. By doing so, you’ll change the angle of the sun and give your images a new feel.

5. Capture Details

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If the sun is too powerful for your child’s eyes, you can always refocus on other details of your day together. The swing set, slides, shoes, flowers and toys don’t squint and are all part of the story, so shoot away.

6. Lens Hood

Finally, if you have a lens that came with a lens hood, full sun days are the best days to use it. Not only does it help block glare and sun flare, but it can also protect your lens from accidental bumps and tiny hands.

Just remember that the worst photo is the photo not taken, so fear not of the sun. Instead, use the sun to your advantage.  Be smart about how you are shooting and have fun!

Photo Credits: Ashley Sisk







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Ashley Sisk
Ashley Sisk
Ashley lives in North Carolina with her husband, two kids and Kitty Paw. She’s a work-from-home mom with a natural light photography business and a passion for sharing everything she knows. Since leaving the corporate world, she now spends her time trying to get through elementary school with her daughter, chasing her firefighter loving little boy, writing and finding ways to enjoy life. You can find her on Facebook, Google + or on her website.

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