Shooting into the Light by Francesco Iacobelli

As photographers, in the beginning, we follow some rules, and that is right.

But sometimes it is better to go a little further, breaking some rules.

And the results can be surprising…….

Italy, Marche, Ancona district, Loreto, Sanctuary of Madonna di Loreto

One of the first rules I learned as a photographer, and followed, was “never take a picture towards the sun. Always keep the sun on your back, or at least on your side”.

So luckily, I broke the law.

Digital cameras certainly make things easier.

Shooting into the light, basically, means letting the sun, or rays of sunlight, into the frame.  

You can use sunlight, or any other light source, both in photos shot from a tripod, or hand-held.

The sun, in many of my photos, not just illuminates the scene but invades it, rules it, makes it live.  I like light, I like illuminated, bright, vibrant photography.

Italy, Emilia-Romagna Rimini district San Leo

Technically, it is not always easy, the exposure meter is no longer reliable, so you need intuition and some tricks.

Composing with the sun in the frame means positioning it well and effectively so that the sun is not too intrusive but at the same time it is a distinctive feature of the photo.

A very nice effect is to try to recreate the sun’s rays to get that typical star which we drew as children.  It’s quite easy: just close the aperture diaphragm – the more this is closed, the better the star effect will be.

Italy, Italia. Veneto. Padova district. Padua, Padova. Piazza della Frutta and Via Fiume.

Another trick to give a suggestive look to your photos is to try to hide the sun a bit, let it filter behind something.  Shooting in the city, this is much easier, as you can conceal the main fiery ball of the sun behind a monument, roofline or statue.

When I was in Pisa, I waited for the sun to be exactly between the Baptistery and the Cathedral.  I then positioned the sun inside the frame of the image to give the photo and the place a new, very unusual, fresh look.

Italy, Italia. Tuscany, Toscana. Pisa district. Pisa. Piazza dei Miracoli. Baptistery, Cathedral and Leaning Tower.

Sunlight makes a photo even more intimate, even more so than ordinary bright light which makes any photo more vivid.

I was in Tuscany with a couple of friends and to try to describe their love and their intimacy I chose to flood them with warm light.  They seem to literally walk in the light.  It makes the setting almost unreal. In this case, I wanted the sunlight to pervade the scene, so I opened the diaphragm and the light surrounded the couple in an indefinite, almost dreamlike, way.

Italy, Tuscany, Siena district, Orcia Valley, Pienza. Young couple. (MR)

The typical Italian street and the walls of the old buildings have created an interplay of very effective shadows and lights.

Driving along one of the most famous roads in Tuscany, with the low light and the sun in front made everything even more magical.  

Italy, Tuscany, Siena district, Orcia Valley, Montichiello. A young couple driving in a winding road and cypresses.(MR)

The important thing is to find the right balance between light and dark, between the part completely flooded with light and the rest of the photo.

When shooting, a little trick is to always overexpose the scene by one or two f-stops (depending on the situation).  The light meter will try to underexpose the scene with too much light because it is technically a mistake, but unlike the camera, we have a heart and a sensitivity, so we must try to be creative and overexpose.  If a photo is properly “overexposed”, post-production is very easy.  Generally, you just need to adjust the contrast a little, to give more depth to the photo, adjust the white balance and you’re done.

Roman Forum, Rome, Lazio, Italy, Europe.

Photographing into the light is not just a technique, it is about wanting to transmit warmth, joy, peace, and serenity – so don’t be afraid of breaking some rules.

It may not be a coincidence that I am afraid of the dark.

About the author

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