How to use the Sun as your flash!
4 Mar 2010
You are in a park, in the middle of the day, and you want to be able to get some creative shots but you think that it is too bright out. Just f/Stop it! The f/Stop on your camera basically controls two aspects of the scene that you are capturing, how much ambient light passes through your lens and onto your camera's sensor and what your depth of field is. That is to say how much light that you are not providing with your camera equipment is being added to the scene and how much of the scene is in focus.
The main point of this tip is to show you how to use the f/Stop and the direct sunlight together to get a really interesting result.
As you may know, when you first learned of f/Stop, it seemed counter intuitive because the smaller the number that the more light the lens let in and vice versa. Well without going into all of the technical details as to why this is the case, just know that this is the rule.
When you are in direct sunlight, you want to reduce the amount of the ambient light as much as necessary to give proper exposure and effect on your subject. To achieve this, change your f/Stop to a larger number, like 11, and take test shots each time you increment to the next number up to see what effect it has on your shot. Just remember that you want to do this after each shot so you can see the impact the change has. The shot included with this tip was taken in the early afternoon with my subject in direct sunlight and the shade from the trees just behind her. It was shot at 1/800 shutter speed, f/11 at ISO 320 to give me the spotlight effect that I wanted.
Play around with this technique and you will find all sorts of applications for it. You can set the f/Stop to say 22 and remove almost all of the ambient light and then add your own flash to make it appear that the image was taken at night. You may also have to tweak your shutter speed a bit to get everything dialed in just the way you want.
The key is to experiment and most importantly HAVE FUN!