I remember one Spring day seeing a sign outside a chemist shop advertising their photo printing bar. It said
‘The sun is shining, get snapping’!
I thought to myself, whoever made up that ad doesn’t know a thing about photography! Bright sunshine can be one of the worst times for getting a good shot, and our so called foolproof Intelligent Auto camera settings work well for exposure in most situations bar this one.
So how many times have we assumed that just because a scene on a sunny day looks brightly lit and colourful with our eyes, that that will render the same on our photos? And how many times have we been sorely disappointed at the results.
The results can be anything from our photos being brighter than expected, darker than expected, shadows on faces or totally obscuring a subject or detail, blue skies turned to white or looking unnaturally turquoise.
Those who are able to use the camera in manual often try to rectify the situation by metering the scene for a correct exposure. That rarely works on an intensely bright Sunny day due to the extreme contrast of the situation. If we meter off an area that is bright to the eye then the camera will give a reading that will make the photo too dark. Or our metering may be targeted at an area that appears ok to the eye but actually it is in shadow thus causing the camera’s meter to give a reading that renders the photo too bright.
This is a slightly more advanced tip but one very cool little trick is to use the Sunny F16 rule. This is a really old trick that works almost perfectly on Sunny days from at least one hour after sunrise until one hour or more before sunset. It does require that your camera can be operated manually and that if it does so that you are able to use it manually.
You set your aperture to F16. Then you set your ISO to what you require. That could be 200 or 400, whatever you want it to be. The trick though is that having set your ISO you then must set your shutter speed to the exact same figure as the ISO. So if you have your ISO set to 200 your shutter speed should be set to 1/200.
You can still use your wide apertures but if you do then you will need to calculate your shutter speed accordingly so that you maintain the same exposure.
It has to be said however that although you may be able to get the best exposure possible for the scene using this Sunny F16 rule, there may still be shadows because that’s the nature of the light and the camera can’t change that.