Against the light

Hints and tips from Philip Grosset

It's often best to have the sun behind us (an angle of about 45 degrees can produce pleasant modelling with light shadows on faces) - but there are times when it can be well worth experimenting with a more adventurous approach:

Sunset behind Houghton Mill in Cambridgeshire in England. It wasn't really as dark as this! It is easy to take dramatic sunset pictures with an automatic camera phone, as the bright light from the sun causes the lens aperture to close down (or the shutter speed to be reduced) so that the scene comes out darker (like this one) than it really looked at the time. Watch out, though, as there may be nasty halo effects if you let the sun shine almost right into the lens! The duck in the right foreground adds some interest and depth to the picture.

An imaginative view of an old tree by Tim Grosset. Another of those against-the-light shots that can often be worth trying. Here's an example of a starburst effect where the sun shone almost right into the lens - something you should always avoid unless there is something (often leaves on a tree) to reduce the glare.
t's almost impossible to anticipate how shots like this will turn out. You just have to rely on trial and error!

Shooting into sun
In this striking photo of Southwold pier, also by Tim Grosset, the setting sun is concealed by the buildings.
Girl blowing pipe Girl reversed
Against-the-light shots of people can be very pleasing when the sun provides a halo effect around the head, especially when there is a dark background. But, if you've got it, use fill-in flash, as here, or the face will come out very dark - and be careful to shade the lens from the sun! The original picture is on the left, but, as our eyes read from left to right, it actually looks better when reversed, as on the right.
With side lighting, a large white piece of cardboard (or even a sheet or newspaper) can be used as a reflector to lighten shadow areas.

Biy with bubbles
This extreme side lighting allows the bubbles to stand out clearly from the dark hedge in the background. In this case, no fill-in flash was used as it would have destroyed the coloring of the bubbles which was the main point of this award-winning photo.
Boy with bubbles original
This was the original version of the above photo. I've included it here as an example of how a picture can be improved with a photo editing program like Photoshop. What really matters is the final result - not how you get it!

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