Photographing the Sun

Photographing the Sun or Natural Backlighting

In landscape photography, your best comrade is the sun. It can perfect or ruin your pictures. It decides the good moments of the day (the sunrise and the sunset) and completes the colors of the scene. Nevertheless, the sun is rarely your subject.

People say that you should always photograph with the sun behind you or at least on the side. Never let it be in front of your camera, they say. Use the flash to reverse its effects, they say. Often, they are right. But there are moments when you should pay homage to your best friend and just photograph the sun. Here are some techniques to make the sun your subject.


One technique to directly photograph the sun is to use a silhouette. Put a distinctive shape between the camera and the sun. It could be a human figure, an animal, rocks, actually anything with a recognizable silhouette. With the source of light behind them, the silhouettes will be underexposed and the result will be an almost black shape with a beautiful sunny contour. Remember that this technique fades the colors and the details. Don’t use it when these features are important in your scene.

If you want to avoid lens flare, use a lens hood to protect the front of the lens from light.


Another technique to photograph with the sun in front of the camera is to use a natural shield. Trees or clouds are perfect for this job and you can find plenty in nature. The trick is to stop only part of the light, creating rays of light, long shadows, diffuse light, and controlled lens flare. Yes, lens flare can be a great effect, both joyful and dramatic. With some luck, you can get even a rainbow in your picture.

Photography is an art. You are allowed to be creative, to break the rules, to express your emotions. An intentional lens flare is not a mistake, it’s an effect.


You can achieve interesting effects by using a star filter. The filters are classified by the number of points. There are 4-pointed, 6-pointed, 8-pointed, and so on. If you don’t want to spend money on these special effects, there are good and easy methods to make them by yourself. You need a sheet of plastic, a ruler, and a pin.

Letting the sun into your frame adds warmth to your picture. There is a strong connection between nature’s elements and this connection is the sun. Their colors, their textures are all dictated by the sun. Photography is sometimes called “the art of painting with light”. Let the sun be the major character in your story.



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