How To Shoot Into The Sun – Proper Exposure

So how do you shoot directly into the sun without getting overexposed or underexposed ? Whether you’re shooting with phone or DSLR, this tutorial will help you a LOT !

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People Suck When Shooting Into The Sun

Most people don’t understand how to shoot directly into the sun without getting overexposed or underexposed. They’ve always captured either 1.good exposure for the sky, and the ground is completely dark or 2.proper exposure for the ground, and the sky is way too bright. And they’ve never captured the pictures they expected. If this is happening to you, then you just came to the right place. Don’t worry. I’m going to show you exactly how I get proper exposure for both sunlight and foreground.

There are three ways to capture proper exposure for the sun and the foreground

  1. Use graduated filter.
  2. Camera settings and HDR
  3. Use lightroom presets


1. ND grad filter

When we shoot into the sun, the sky is going to be very very bright. The foreground is correctly exposed but we’re overexposed where the sun is. If we try to use faster shutter speed or smaller aperture to get exposed for the sun, then the foreground becomes too dark. It seems to be impossible to have proper exposure for both sun and foreground.

Fortunately, we have “ND grad filter” which is attached to your lens using filter holder. It’s just like a half sunglasses half clear plastic. This filter covers the overexposed part of the footage and bring the sky and the foreground closer to an even exposure. The density of the filter refers to how many stops of light the filter blocks at its darkest part. I would highly recommend “three stops” ND grad filter for shooting sunset, sunrise, or direct sunlight.



2. Camera settings

As a photographer we shouldn’t let our camera control any setting for us. So the first thing you need to do is switch to the M mode, and now you’re able to control all the settings manually.

ISO – Your camera will capture tons of light when you’re shooting directly into the sun. So it’s time to bring down your ISO to 100. I personally don’t use ISO that is high than 1600 because I really hate those noise appearing on my footage

Shutter speed – If you’re going to shoot into the sun, shutter speed doesn’t really matter to your footage. You can change it depending on the different lighting conditions. But if you’re shooting a video, then please note that shutter speed will affect how your videos look like. There is a rule called “180 degree” That means whatever your frame rate is, you just double that. For example, let’s say you’re shooing at 24 or 25fps, then you should set your shutter speed to 1/50 sec.

Aperture – When it comes to the camera settings, the main thing we’re worried about when shooting into the sun is the aperture. The aperture in your lens is very similar to human eye. When we have a small aperture(higher f stop), the sun will look like a star.

  • Mode – M
  • Aperture – f/22
  • Shutter speed – 125/1 sec
  • ISO – 100


  • Mode – M
  • Aperture – f/8.0
  • Shutter speed – 1000/1 sec
  • ISO – 100


  • Mode – M
  • Aperture – f/5.0
  • Shutter speed – 2000/1 sec
  • ISO – 100

F/22     vs     F/5.0

You can see the huge difference between f/22 and f/5.0.

Sometimes, the scenes are so high in contrast that the camera just can’t capture them. For example, if you’re inside your house and looking out the windows, you’re able to see the blue sky, clouds, sun… When you look inside, your eyes will quickly change so that you’re able to see all the details in the shadows. But our camera just can’t do that. There is a big disparity between human eye and camera sensor. We can see 11 stops a difference while the camera only see 5 stops. So we often go out and take a shot, and the pictures will not look at all like what we see. That’s why we need HDR.

What is HDR? The HDR stands for high dynamic range. The aim of it is to recreate an image that’s closer to that seen by the human eye. HDR allows you to blend several photos together to get light and shadow details that you can’t get in a single photo. We always use software such as lightroom to merge several photos together to create a HDR photo. But how to shoot HDR in the first place ?

The first thing you need to do is mount your camera on a tripod. Just make sure that your tripod won’t move during the shots because the software will ONLY allow you to merge those photos that are taken from the same spot. Then take a series of exposure ranging from light to dark. You can do that by changing the different shutter speed each time you shoot a photo. Then import those photos to lightroom, and merge them together to create a stunning HDR photo ! That’s it !


3. Use lightroom

The last method is to use lightroom to edit your photos. Like I said before, if the sun is correctly exposed, then the foreground is gonna be pure black. Fortunately, you can use lightroom to bring the shadows up and make it looks like a HDR photo. But the downside of this method is that you’re not using the “nature” light, so the quality of photos might not be as good as the traditional HDR photos. But this method doesn’t require tripod. You can just simply take a photo and edit it in ten seconds !

Tips: Camera sensor is just like our eyes, so don’t shoot directly into the sun for too long !







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