How to Overpower the Sun With Flash

Shooting with natural light can lead to beautiful landscapes and portraits, but controlling the sun is difficult—you need reflectors, the right positioning, and patience in case clouds change everything. Sometimes, you just need to overpower the sun—this video shows how:

Cameras don’t have great dynamic range—they can’t keep everything perfectly exposed, even if it looks that way to us in-person. Either the subject is lit perfectly and the sun is whited out, or the sky is properly exposed and the subject is in silhouette.

The way to get around this is to get the subjects brighter than the sun. In the video above, wedding photographer Pye Jirsa takes us through three ways in which we can achieve this.

Method #1: Use a simple in-camera flash against a silver reflector angled toward your subject, which should light them up well. This technique works best when the sun is already down, at dusk, when there’s enough sun to light up the sky, but not enough to overpower a simple reflector.

beach sunset shot

Reflector

Method #2: If the sun hasn’t quite set yet, one option is to use bare bulbs off to the side of the camera. If you’re using only pocket strobes, setting them a few feet away at half- to full-power is the best option.

use strobe lighting outside

Mixing Strobes and Sunlight

Method #3: Jirsa’s last tip is to know when to use flash against the sun. In the example below, he took two shots; one was a spur-of-the-moment photo without flash, creating a pleasant silhouette, and the other was with his prepared gear, which resulted in a blander, flatter image.

no flash for beach photography

No Flash

too much light

You don’t always need to overpower the sunlight.

For analysis into how he took each of the above shots, you can watch the full, in-depth video.

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One response to “How to Overpower the Sun With Flash”

  1. Why use bare bulbs for method #2? if you have the juice in your flash, you’d be much better diffusing the light through a softbox to create a softer light without any hard shadows.

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