Many photographers are challenged when they are shooting into the sun or brightly lit backgrounds. In the beginning, I too struggled with this. As we learn and experience more about photography and what works, we get to understand that light is everything when taking a photo. This is something that I preach to all my students, … “see the light, take the shot”.

Different Lighting Conditions

Most of us are told that the best images are captured with the sun behind the photographer. This is partly true, but not in all instances, especially when the sun is high, too bright, or shining through a sparse – like surface such as a tree. Dappled light is not always welcoming, nor the shadows that will “pester” your subject. The best lighting conditions most common to all, is the golden hour, this is the best time of day to take photographs. The reason for this being the light is soft and diffused, eliminating all harsh or unwanted shadow and glare. The only challenge you are faced with as a photographer is the short time period for which the golden hour is present, either early morning, or late afternoon, so you have to be quick, and have a plan. As we know, things are not always that simple, especially when shooting randomly under poor lighting conditions.

The Compensation of Light vs Dark

We are therefore forced to learn and accept the fact that we need to make good of a poor lighting environments when outdoors, and to realise that it is certainly possible to get that perfect shot. One needs to understand this to get the perfect lighting compensation, you will need to know how to adjust and measure the lighting correctly. The situations that I am referring to here,  is when the foreground subject is darker in comparison to the background. A good example of this  would be when you are taking a photograph of your friend on the beach with the beautiful sunset in the background. Another example, is when you are trying to expose for a person in room with the light filtering in from window in the background.

This is tricky…, but very simple to achieve good results. Firstly, you will need to know how to use the settings on your camera in manual, and secondly, have a flash on hand.

How to Achieve The Best Results

Firstly, expose for the background, using the correct ISO, aperture and shutter speed. All digital cameras have a light meter, so this should be fairly basic.  The next step is to set up your flash. The purpose of the flash is to lighten/flash the subject in the foreground. For the best results, make sure you have a flash speed light, a transmitter, a stand with an umbrella. This is all very portable and lightweight to carry. Once you have this set up and the light is angled to bounce off the white umbrella onto the subject, you are almost ready. Compose, take aim and shoot. What will follow are basic adjustments to compensate the power of the flash., allowing you to achieve a balanced light for both the foreground and the background. If you find you are still struggling, my suggestion would be to attend a short practical workshop on photography, using both natural and flash aided lighting for indoor and outdoor application.


Yes, it is that simple, anyone can do this. Finally, without stating the obvious, make sure that your umbrella is angled correctly and at the right height. You need capture the mood you are looking for. All the best, so go and start having fun.