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A simple hack for shooting in the sun and processing the images

The post An easy hack to shoot in the sun and process the images first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Adam Welch.

Whether you are photographing landscapes, street photography or outdoor portraits, or just taking a photo of your cat hanging in the window, many photos have one thing in common: sunlight. Yes, that big burning fireball in the sky can ruin your photos or make them memorable. Some photographers enjoy the view of the sun shining brightly into the sky with shining starbursts and flare, while others don't. Whatever you think about it, you will often find it necessary to shoot directly in bright sunlight.

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I am going to show you a simple way to deal with the invasive (but often satisfactory) circumstances to take a photo when the sun is directly on your camera. All this happens without the need for filters and is easy to achieve with some simple work in Photoshop.

Warning: remember friends, the techniques shown here are intended to help you work in conditions that are encountered when shooting in the sun when it comes to common photographic conditions. Prolonged shooting at the sun can damage your camera and deliberately staring directly into the sun will permanently damage your eyes.

Take your photos ' s

The first things first. You need at least two photos of the same scene, but photographed with different exposures. Please note that two photos ' s MINIMUM are required; one for the foreground elements and one for the desired brightness of the sun. Depending on the complexity and contrast of your scene, it is a good idea (as I did here) to make extra shots to make your final image look realistic.

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If you prefer a prominent "fireworks" effect for the sun, it is a good idea to use a relatively small aperture (large f-number) for one of your images. As we merge multiple photos, it is crucial that they are all aligned as accurately as possible. So, of course, the use of a stable tripod is an integral part of the result of your photo. I know, I know … you've heard it a thousand times.

Try this cool trick

Before we continue to merge our images, I want to tell you about an incredibly fun trick to reduce lens flare and get a much cleaner result when shooting directly at the sun. You may have noticed that one of my photos has a thick thumb in the middle of the image? This is not by accident.

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This allows us to block the most direct light rays, so that we have a good place to soak up in the sun of our drastically underexposed photo. Not only that, but it also helps to greatly reduce (not always remove) the lens flare artifacts, which often leave their heads behind on this type of photo. It all makes sense in just a second.

Combine the images

As you probably already know, purchasing the photos that you need is a very simple operation. The magic lies in the way we handle those images in Photoshop. We can place our images directly in Photoshop or, as I prefer, first work with them in Lightroom and then kick them as layers to Photoshop. This saves time and makes it much easier, especially if working in Photoshop is new to you. Make sure you do not crop any photos!

Open images as layers in Photoshop

If you want to open your images as layers in Photoshop from Lightroom, make sure that all your photos are selected and then right-click on the images. Select ' In edit ' and choose ' Open as layers in Photoshop & # 39 ;.

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Once Photoshop starts, you will see all your photos presented as layers in the Layers panel.

Arrange the layers by dragging and dropping them into place. Sort the layers where the sun was blocking on top with your thumb. Go down in order of decreased brightness with the darkest image at the very bottom.

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Automatically align layers

Although we have done our best to ensure that all our photos are compiled in the same way, it is good practice to let Photoshop help align the layers. In this way they fit as close together as possible to prevent skew. Doing this is a breeze (Photoshop humor) using ' Automatically extend layers & # 39 ;. Make sure all your layers are selected by Ctl + click or Cmd + click (Mac).

If you have a large number of layers, you can select them faster by highlighting the top layer and then Shift + click on the bottom layer (or vice versa). Once all of your layers have been selected, select ' Edit ' and then ' Automatically renew layers & # 39 ;.

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Leave the alignment projection set to ' Auto & # 39 ;.

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After Photoshop has finished formatting those layers in better alignment, you may see a small border around your image. This is because Photoshop aligns the layers. Do not worry; you can cut it out later.

Add layer masks

You must incorporate layer masks so that you can paint in and out of our layers while you work. Select each layer and add a mask by clicking on the layer mask icon. It is not necessary to place a mask on the bottom layer in the stack.

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For a refresher course on working with layer masks, view this article by Jim Hamel.

Mix the layers

Now that we've added masks to all of our layers, it's time to start mixing. We start with the sky and remove the obvious figure from the photo. Since the layer mask is set to white, you must ensure that you paint with black. If you get confused, remember the old saying ' hides black, white reveals & # 39 ;.

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Even working with this small number of layer masks can become somewhat unmanageable. I recommend that you merge each layer with the next one after blending each part of your photo.

To merge your completed layers, highlight them and use the keyboard shortcut Ctl + E (Cmd + E for Mac). This helps prevent conflicts with your masking. Blend your layers based on your specific photos ' s.

After each layer merge, add a layer mask to the resulting layer.

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In the end you should have two layers.

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It is here where things can get a little tricky because you are probably dealing with mixing your starbursts with a darker surrounding air. Just take your time. It is a good idea to set your brush at a low flow of 10-15 and your coverage at around 15 to start. Then gradually build up the effect. A soft brush is certainly needed here.

And ta-dah!

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With just a little bit of mixing we have successfully combined our four pictures of the sunset. Before I left Photoshop, I went ahead and removed those few flakes of dust and the remaining lens flare artifacts that escaped from my thumb. After you save your changes and close Photoshop, the newly mixed photo is thrown back to Lightroom for cropping and some final adjustments.

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A few final words about overcoming the sun …

There are several ways to shoot directly in the sun to take great pictures. Most relate to different filters and careful positioning.

With a little basic knowledge of Photoshop, you can abandon the extra equipment and achieve results that are demonstrably just as good or better than the more traditional photographic methods.

This is especially useful if you use a camera that sports less than a spectacular dynamic range. Of course, you should not see this technique as a substitute for practicing solid photography techniques, but instead, it provides a way for us to easily bring the desired photo home at the end of the day.

Not that comfortable with Photoshop? We have you covered!

View here some of the great resources at Digital Photography School that will teach you everything you would ever want to know about working with layers, blending modes, and masking in Photoshop.

We would like to see the images that you make in this tutorial. Please share with us and the DPS community in the comments below!

The post An easy hack to shoot in the sun and process the images first appeared at Digital Photography School. It is written by Adam Welch.

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