Many people think that you can only take
good photographs if the sun is directly behind or to one side of the
camera. Admittedly, by taking shots straight into the sun or shooting
against the light, flare and incorrect exposure may result, but if
handled carefully these can be avoided or used to dramatic effect. To
eliminate flare, a good lens hood should suffice. In fact you should
always have a lens hood attached to your camera whichever way you are
shooting. Flare can result from light indirectly reflecting off a shiny
surface such as a car or window as well as directly from the sun.
Calculating exposure needs careful consideration as, if your subject is
strongly backlit, it could appear as a silhouette. Although this may be
the effect you are after, an adjustment to exposure will be necessary
if you want your subject to be visible. If you are using a camera with
built in metering that has a choice of exposure modes such as average,
center-weighted or spot metering, then the spot metering mode will give
a more accurate reading. If your camera only has metering in the
average exposure mode, the chances are that it will underexpose your
It is possible to overcome this if you can move in close so that the
viewfinder is covering only the subject and take your meter reading at
this distance. This means depressing the shutter release button about
half way. If your camera has an auto exposure lock you now keep the
shutter release button slightly depressed and return to your original
viewpoint. Without taking your finger off the button take your shot.
Your subject will now be correctly exposed although the background will
be overexposed. If you are taking more than one shot from this
viewpoint you will have to repeat the procedure with each shot.
Another way round this problem is to use the exposure compensation dial
- if applicable- on your camera. Camera exposure setting when against
the light, set the dial to give two stops more exposure than the
reading on the camera meter. If you can operate your camera manually
and you have a separate exposure meter then, as above, you caould move
in close to your subject to take a reading.
If you do use this method with your camera or a hand held meter, care
must be taken not to cast a shadow on your subject, otherwise an
incorrect reading will be obtained and overexposure will result. The
preferred method of taking a reading with a hand held meter is to use
the incident light method. This means attaching an invercone - a white
disc - to the exposure meter sensor. The meter is then pointed to the
camera and a reading taken. This method records the amount of light
falling on your subject as opposed to reflecting from it.
One word of warning when taking photographs into the light: sun is very
powerful and can be greatly magnified by camera lenses, so if these are
pointed to the sun damage to your eyes could result - be careful!