I know.

It is the fourth of JUU-LYY in the US of A.  Such a great time to revive Foto Friday.  Whenever there is a holiday in the US, the Internet seems to go eerily silent.  This may be due to the fact that a large portion of my readers (and who I read) are from the USA (Happy 4th, friends!). I expect to hit “Publish” and hear…


However.  I live in CANADA.  Our July long weekend was so three days ago.  Besides, the mutual (Canada and US) July long weekends are a great kick-start to summer.  I think it is high time that I post about the summer photo tips that I have been alluding to lately.

Here goes.

We all know that the best time of day for shooting photos is in the early morning or early evening.  If you did not know that already?  NOW YOU KNOW.

I could get all technical and such and explain about the fact that light is measured in….never mind.  Just trust me.  Early morning and early evening are DA BOMB for lighting.

So what do you do it your finger is itching to take photos and it is the middle of the day?  I might have a suggestion or two.  Hence this post.

The Shade Is Where It’s At

A blazing sun may be horrible for photos, but it does provide enough light so that you don’t need to bump your ISO so high that you get digital noise (grainy photos).  I like to drag my kids kicking and screaming encourage my kids to play in the shade so that I can get photos of them with some stellar lighting.

Miss Emily

Any shade will do, even the shade of the minivan.

Stay Cool

I love the light reflecting in her eyes in that one.

What if you find yourself in the harsh midday sun and want to get snap happy, but there is no shade around?

You Need To Use A Flash

It sounds crazy, right?  I KNOW.  Here is the deal.  The sun is nasty for photos, yes, but there are tricks to use!  I promise!

The main idea behind it is that the sun, while all bright and harsh-like, is not all-encompassing.  It casts great light, but only in one direction.

Sunlit Emily

Which leaves us with shadows. That photo is not too extreme, but you get the idea.

When I want to get all fancy-pants, I pull out my external flash and fill the harsh shadows in with light.

G Force!

Not everyone can justify spending money on an external flash, so what do you do?  There are options!

Diffuse Your Built-In Flash

The flash that is built into your camera is cheap.  It is extreme, and harsh, and really lame.  STEP AWAY FROM THE FLASH (Until later. Stay tuned).

I will show you what I mean.  I took this photo using my built-in flash.

Harsh! Light!

Emily!  Watch out for the nuclear bomb that went off!

You can use a diffuser. (It makes the light not so APOCALYPSE-like.)

Put the sun BEHIND your subjects

People often think that making their subjects face the sun is GOOD.  Because then they are WELL-LIT.

They are also squinty and nasty-looking.  No offense.  I have done the same.

The secret trick is to have your subjects facing you with the sun behind them.  While shooting a wedding two weeks ago, I gave this tip to a mom of a friend of the bride.  We moved the girls 180 degrees and the photo on her point-and-shoot was one hundred percent better.

If you can work it right, you can get a photo without any need for flash.


Often, though, you need a flash.  What do you do if you do not have a diffuser?

Zoom From A Distance And Flash Away

I was in the yard with the kids one evening and had not attached my external flash.  I zoomed to 200mm, and tried using the built-in flash.

Fill Flash!

Not too bad, if I do say so myself.  Nathan was far enough away from the camera that the (LAME) built-in flash was not overpowering.


For those of you that skip to the end of long posts (Not that I do that or anything. Heh.), here is a summary:

  • Shoot in the shade whenever possible.
  • If there is no shade, the sun should be BEHIND your subject
  • Use a fill-flash (external), but not the built-in.  Unless;
  • You have a diffuser, or;
  • You are far away and are zoomed out in the 200mm range.

Happy summer snapping, folks.  I hope I helped you in some miniscule way.

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  1. Amy July 3, 2008 8:26 pm edit

    I’ll be the first to respond….I’m really intrigued…my new camera will be arriving on Monday and it can’t come soon enough…I decided on the Nikon D60 and all it’s glory…I’m excited to play and learn and have lots of bad and good shots!

    Thanks for the tips…I’ll be certain to check back.

    Amy’s last blog post..The never ending To-Do List…

  2. Hannah July 3, 2008 8:29 pm edit

    Great tips, as always! Thanks!

    Hannah’s last blog post..I love being Queen

  3. Heather July 3, 2008 8:55 pm edit

    Thanks !

  4. reddirtroad July 3, 2008 10:25 pm edit

    You are so smart when it comes to this. Right on. Thanks for the tips!

    reddirtroad’s last blog post..One Point Two Percent

  5. Victoria July 3, 2008 10:57 pm edit

    Oh I so very much don’t like my flash and never use it. I wonder if I can jerry-rig a diffuser type thing. Like, tape something over the flash. Icky icky flash! ;)

    Victoria’s last blog post..But July Lays A Hand Of Blond All Through Your Hair

  6. Michele July 3, 2008 11:32 pm edit

    As usual, great tips…More to add to that menal notebook!!! Incase I don’t say it enought, your kids are ADORABLE!!! I love those shots!

  7. Lynette July 4, 2008 7:15 am edit

    WOW, it looks like I have a lot of reading to do! Maybe I might learn how to actually USE my camera (Nikon D40) the right way! I love it just not smart enough to use it right, LOL

    Lynette’s last blog post..Decorating help needed, apply within!

  8. Kristie July 4, 2008 8:14 am edit

    Great tips! Thank you. I have a crappy Kodak camera, but maybe I can attempt better pictures now. :)

    Now, I’m off to get ready to watch unsupervised children play with fireworks and have panic attacks while doing so.

    Kristie’s last blog post..A drop in the bucket

  9. Ashley July 4, 2008 8:22 am edit

    Thanks for the tips!

    Ashley’s last blog post..Summer weddings

  10. monstergirlee July 4, 2008 10:41 am edit

    Q – How do I make the built-in flash go off in the bright sunlight? I have a digiRebel XTi.

    p.s.- I linked to this post from your comment on Ali’s site.

    monstergirlee’s last blog post..Fuschia

  11. angella July 4, 2008 10:46 am edit

    Nice to meet you!

    If you are in one of the automatic settings on the Canon (Portrait, etc.), then it appears you cannot override to make the flash pop up (I just tried it on mine).

    If you are in the “Creative Zone” (Aperture Priority, manual, etc.) you can pop up the flash.

    If manual settings freak you out, you can set the dial to “P”. It picks all of the settings for you automatically, and you can pop up the flash :)

  12. Barb July 4, 2008 10:52 am edit

    thanks for the great tips…. I am always looking for ways to improve my phototaking abilities… I don’t have a very fancy camera, but you tips are very helpful

    Barb’s last blog post..Friday Fill in for July 4

  13. Heather July 4, 2008 12:18 pm edit

    Thanks for the tips! I’ll definitely have to try them out.

  14. red lotus mama July 4, 2008 12:24 pm edit

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. I needed those tips on how to use my flash correctly. Your tips are so helpful.

  15. The Over-Thinker July 4, 2008 12:38 pm edit

    I don’t hear any crickets :)

    The Over-Thinker’s last blog post..Calling All Jane & John Doe’s!! Time to spill it.

  16. MaryBeth @ Four Silly Sisters July 4, 2008 7:47 pm edit

    Thank you so much for the tips… I started reading a long while ago b/c of a comment another of your readers left on my blog. They recommended your Foto Friday, but apparently I started reading just as you stopped doing regular updates. I’m so glad to see a new one, and I hope you’ll continue them when you have the chance!

    MaryBeth @ Four Silly Sisters’s last blog post..Happy 4th of July!

  17. louise July 7, 2008 2:55 pm edit

    Thanks for those tips! I will remember that!
    I am still learning on my camera…don’t know if I’ll ever get it…lol!

  18. Dana July 7, 2008 7:56 pm edit

    I love your Foto Fridays. I hope you keep doing them. I have learned a lot from them.

    Ya know, I found on my recent vacation I am perplexed about how to get a good photo of a landscape scene where the sky is bright and sooo blue and the other half of hte shot is greenery and darker. If you focus in on the bottom half, the sky is whited out and you can’t see the blue hues – the sky is overexpos3ed..but if you focus on the sky part, the green part is too dark. I hope that makes sense. How can I get a picture where BOTH the horizon and sky and the greenery look good like it does to my eyes?? Help – maybe you could answer this question in one of your Foto Fridays.

    And thanks for the Happy 4th. I’m one of your USA readers..from Texas! I’m sure you have a huge following in both the US and CAnada.


    Dana’s last blog post..Best Shot Monday

  19. Carolyn July 9, 2008 10:52 pm edit

    Just read all the posts between here and your most recent. No time to comment on them all, but great stuff. Especially your girls get-together. Awesome!!

    Perfect tips in this Foto Friday post. Excellent advice, all of it. One thing to add… most DSLRs have an option to dial down the built-in flash so it’s not so, well, flashy. I usely have my mine dialed down at least 2 stops at all times. It fills with out being crazy-ugly-bright.

    Anyway… gotta get to bed. Cheers, eh!

    Carolyn’s last blog post..punk rock mommy.

  20. Mrs. Wilson July 12, 2008 5:59 pm edit

    Dude! Thanks for the tips! I have to do my sister-in-law’s wedding in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY and I’m hoping that it’ll be sunny. If it’s cloudy, it would be BETTER, but now I know what to do if there’s no hope for shade. Thanks!!!

    Mrs. Wilson’s last blog post..Old Dirty

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