buildings don't squint

!! Important !!
First, let me say that there is no right or wrong with photography. If you end up with a photo that matches the vision you had in your mind... you have taken a successful photograph! This post is for those that are ending up with something different than they envisioned, and not understanding why their photo didn't turn out as they intended. People have asked me how I take midday photos in full sun and not get a blown out sky. This post addresses that.

!! Disclaimer !!
This post is not meant to overlook or knock back-lighting in any way. I LOVE backlighting. Backlit shots can be magical, with a feel you can't capture otherwise. I even have my own personal backlighting idol that I stalk regularly visit from time to time. Her shots wow me with that golden light and beautiful haze. No, this is not that type of backlighting. This isn't intentional backlighting. I'm referring to how understanding lighting affects your final image.

I just figured out this lighting phenomenon last year during our annual trip to Florida. I was taking picture of "things" at Disney... signs, buildings, etc. and some would look so bright, colorful and vibrant! And then 2 seconds later, I'd take a picture and it would be awful. Dark, dull, blah. I didn't understand what was happening. (And I'm not talking about incorrect exposure here; I'm talking about placement of the sun).

So on to the meaning of the title: Buildings don't Squint.

Ferris wheels don't squint.

Flags don't squint.

And yep. You guessed it. Princess castles don't squint.

When I first started learning about photography a couple years ago, I got really caught up with the idea that full sun was BAD! I was a bit spooked by all the talk of harsh shadows, raccoon eyes and squinting. Instead of understanding that this applied to portrait shots (of PEOPLE), I translated this to mean everything must look bad in midday sun. I would seriously only visit our local flower gardens on cloudy days!

Soooo.... if it doesn't squint, or if it doesn't get dark circles under its eyes, consider shooting it in full sun. It's OK! :-)

Try this: As you're driving around town, notice where the sun is hitting the buildings as you drive by. Do you notice a beautiful church in sparkling sunlight with a pretty blue sky in the background? Now look at the opposite side of the same church as you drive by; the shadowy side hidden from the sun. Imagine what that side would look like if you took a photo from that angle. Can you see that it might be dark and muddy, and in shooting from that direction (if you expose for your building), you're going to blow out your beautiful blue sky? Again, TOTALLY not talking about backlighting done correctly here. If you want that cool sunflare peeking around the side of the building, then shooting into the sun is the way to achieve that. I'm talking about just shooting from a random angle, not understanding how the sun's position will affect your end result. In other words, shooting without a vision of the final result in mind. If backlighting is your vision for that shot... then by all means! :-)

Let's look at a couple more lighting examples. Again, it's all relative people! :-) There is no right or wrong. This is just to address the question that was asked: how I get vibrant colors and blue skies in full sun.

Vs. ..... The Collage of Blah: (taken on the same day at the same time)


OK, so my examples leave a lot to be desired - ha! I just snapped them quickly for this post. I was walking around downtown with all three kids in tow, trying to snap good and bad examples while warding off mom-nappers (YES, AGAIN!!! I'm not kidding), and keeping the kids away from traffic.

So. Are you waiting for the big reveal? The fascinating information that you're going to learn from this post? No seriously. That's it. If this was all common sense to you... then you're light years ahead of yours truly. ;-) This was a real hangup for me; for an entire year I totally didn't get it.

Real life situations:
1. Your kid's sports games. (Yes, I choose what side of the field I sit on based on where the sun is). I want the sun behind me, shining on the kids. If you try shooting into the sun in this type of situation, you're likely going to end up with underexposed kiddos (if you don't adjust your exposure correctly), a blown out white sky and a mess. I'd rather see everything in full color for a shot like this. Remember, this is only a personal preference. Here's a SOOC I took last summer. I was shooting though the fence so it's not the best shot I've ever taken, but you get the idea: full color, no real need to edit it.

2. Kids at a playground or pool. Let the light shine! Anytime you're not taking a portrait shot, try putting the sun behind you and let it shine on your kids. Then, try shooting into the sun and compare your results. There's no right or wrong; just notice how the shots look very different. You can decide what you like best. If you want to see your kids in full color and a blue sky with white puffy clouds, put the sun behind you. If you're trying to get a cool sunflare peeking through the monkey bars at the park, or if you'd like those little *sparklies* on the water at the pool, then whirl around and shoot into the sun.

3. Buildings, signs, statues, architecture, etc.

4. If you travel... tourist spots, street photography, rides at a theme park, the Disney parade. (Yes, I choose the side of the street I'm going to sit on for the Disney parade based on where the sun is). :-)

5. Let's say you're going to put your house up for sale, and need a picture of it for a flyer or advertisement. Dare I (definitively?) say that this would not be the time for artsy creativity? Let the sun shine on your house and make it sparkle!

If I want to take a picture of a certain "something," like a building... YES, I wait for the right time of day to take the photo. The way the building looks at 9:00am might be completely different from the way it looks at 4:00 pm. Just something to think about.

The point in all of this? There's no right or wrong in photography. Just be aware of how lighting will affect your photo and learn to control the placement of it so you can get the effect you want.

Since a lot of you that visit my blog know more about photography than I do, I think this post and this post will conclude Photography Tutorials with Captain Obvious.... err, Karli... but I hope this post has been helpful to someone in some way! Have a wonderful week and thanks for stopping by! :-)


Adeena said...

Lots of great tips! :D

Something I've learned recently that's changing how I expose a shot is the Zone system. There's a video about it out there in cyberspace, I think Adorama actually sells a copy, too. Amazing stuff.

Tracy said...

Hee hee!! You totally crack me up ;) You are such a sweetie! LOVE your photos! We are thinking of taking the kiddos to Disney this winter! These have me all excited :)

Melanie said...

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!!
I learned SO much from this, Karli. You are A-mazing!

Andrea said...

Love these educational posts! Especially this one because I have NO CLUE how to shoot in the sun. And try as I may to get beautiful, Stacey-like light, I never ever get it. (I blog stalk her as well! Hee hee...)
You are the best!!

Kat said...

haha love the title :) and the post

Jessica said...

AWESOME. So simple, like "duh!", and yet I am shaking my head in wonder that I hadn't thought of this myself. Thanks for bringing it to light (no pun intended) for me. Looking forward to learning more from you.

stacey said...

Okay, I loved this. Because I love your sunny photos and I feel like my full sun photos never look like this and DO look dull. So thanks for this. Surprise surprise, but I tend to always look for the backlit situation and shoot into the sun rather than the other way around. You've challenged me to turn my back to the sun a little bit more :)

Seriously, backlighting idol? Stop it.


Marvett Smith said...

Love this post Karli! I stalk Stacey too. She is the queen of light! :) Love your thoughts on this. It's interesting to hear your point of view. I'm going to file this in my brain and remember it the next time I'm out shooting!

Pieni Lintu said...

Great post - thanks! :)

I like cloudy days too.. ;) It's somehow easier!

hello gorgeous said...

I LOVE reading your tips on photography...mainly because I am a COMPLETE novice and learn quite a lot, mind you by the time I put it into practice, I have forgotten! Still, what better way to come back here again and again! Please don't stop :o)

What's the "mom-napping" comment about.....I hated reading about your last incident, I hope it's nothing like that? Stay safe chicken ...


hello gorgeous xxx

Mom of M&Ms said...

DUDE! and i thought I was who you idoled.. ROFL...

I do have some haze for you this morning!!!!!

Grat post friend!

Lisa said...

Great post Karli. I think I knew this but never really articulated it so that I said to myself "I'm going to sit on this side of the soccer field so I can get a good shot". But now that I've read it Iwill be more conscious of it. Especially since we are going to Disneyland next month.

And I love your title because it's so true. If it doesn't squint it's okay to photograph it. You should probably trademark that or something :)

Gina @ Gigi Marie Photography said...

You make me smile. I love the way you explain things. I agree....with all of it. (oh & I can see why you love that other blog- the backlighting is beautiful) I need to get more purposeful in my non-people shots for sure. Stinkin' sun seems to always plague me here in the desert :)

Natalie said...

You're so funny. I thought of you & this post today when I was taking a picture of a butterfly in the bright sun. I couldn't help but think, "Butterflies don't squint." lol

Skye said...

Ooh great post for sure! I always love reading about lighting- I have always been taught that sun is evil. Bad sun. Bad sun. Well, these tips are great. Really! I love all the stuff you put out there and are kind enough to share with us all! Great info! :)

Life with Kaishon said...

This is such a great tip! I am going to pin your ferris wheel picture up top, just so people will click over to read this brilliant post!

Ashley said...

Seriously such great advice! I was thinking of you today when I found myself needlessly shooting into the sun and getting white skies. :)