“What a nice, sunny day for taking pictures”

One of the biggest misconceptions I hear from people is that a nice sunny day is a good time to take pictures. Wrong.

The sun is a harsh light source. It creates harsh shadows that are not flattering on even the most beautiful of us.

One of the best times to take photos is when it’s cloudy out. Clouds act as a giant diffuser, casting soft light on your subject and removing the harsh contrast of shadows.

Direct sunlight can lead to harsh unflattering shadows

So let’s say you know that the sun is bad, so let’s move the subject under the shadow of trees. Wrong! Unless the trees cast an absolute shadow on your subject, any light shining through the leaves creates nasty distracting contrast.

Shadow from trees looks better than direct light, but light shining through the trees is distracting

If there isn’t a cloud in the sky, you have more options.

1) Shoot with the sun at the subject’s back, and add a bit of flash or reflector to light up their face. The sun will act as a hairlight, and the reflector or flash should add a hint of light to fill in the shadows and bring out the subject’s features. You can place the subject between the camera and the sun, so you don’t get flare from the sun, and the sun casts a nice halo behind your subject.

2) Shoot the subject in perfect shade. Even if it seems dark relative to in direct sunlight, it’s probably bright enough for your camera. If not, add a bit of flash.

3) Add a diffusion panel between the sun and your subject. This is a semi-transparent material (even a bed sheet will work). This is a bit harder because you will need 1-2 assistants to hold the panel, and if it’s windy, good luck. But the results are like shooting in a cloudy day or having a giant softbox.

Shooting with the sun behind the subject looks best, with flash or reflector to fill in the shadows

I also prefer to shoot in the morning or evening, when the sun isn’t directly overhead. Overhead sun is the harshest, and can leave shadows in the subject’s eye sockets. A reflector or flash fill will help, but getting good results at noon is a tricky proposition. Evening sun at sunset casts a warmer light, and looks better.

Need your help!

Focus on Ottawa needs your help! It will not cost you a dime though, and it will not take much of your time.

Focus on Ottawa is looking for a new logo. We have started a contest for graphic artists to submit logos for consideration. Now we need your help to decide which one to choose.

Take a look at the submissions at the following website:


Please vote on your favourite by indicating the artist name and a brief description – unfortunately the submissions are not indexed in any way.

You can let me know via comment here, via tweet at @tukaycanuck, or email at information@focusonottawa.com, or our Facebook page.

The deadline is in a couple of days. Thanks for your assistance!

The best camera…


Originally uploaded by Tukay Canuck

World renowned photographer Chase Jarvis says “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

My camera was in the shop for repairs, and I saw this flower. I could have kept walking past it, resigning to the fact that I didn’t have my good SLR camera with me. But instead I took this picture with my phone (iphone). And I think it turned out pretty good.

Most people have cameras on their phones, which means most people always have a camera with them. So if you see something interesting and you don’t happen to have your SLR with you, don’t give up. You could have a top end super camera, but if you come across something rare and extraordinary, the best camera isn’t your top end camera, it’s the one you have with you.