I live in one of the sunniest cities in the country. San Diego has on average 146 sunny days and 117 partly cloudy days a year. Also, more than 34 million tourists are projected to have visited San Diego this year according to the San Diego Tourism Authority.
As I am walking around my fair city, I see a lot of tourists. I also see a lot of people taking photos. With that, I know a lot of individuals taking pictures wrong.
I just want to walk up to them and say that their photo is going to come out terrible. I've never found a polite way to to do this, so I just continue to pass by them and shake my head.
One of the things I see a lot is moms or dads wanting to take a photo of their kids. I watch them struggle with what to do. For a lot of people, the natural way to take a photo of the day is to place them facing the sun. The thinking I assume is that the sun will illuminate their face, but what always happens is a funny facial expression. It is a terrible idea, if you don't believe me, the next time it's a sunny day, go outside and face the sun, then try to keep your eyes open. I guarantee you look a little goofy.
If the sun is out, I take photos in three different configurations:
1. In the shade. This is by far the most comfortable and quickest solution. All you need is to find is a shady area that is visually appealing. I usually look for a pocket of trees or the shade from a building. Doing so will make it much easier to get a proper exposure for the subject and avoid any squinty faces.
The only issue will be any background that is not in the shade will be overexposed and blown out with white. Sometimes this will give the image a neat effect, and other times it will defeat the purpose if you are trying to get the background in the frame. If that is the case, you'll have to rethink it.
2. Backlighting a subject at a 45-degree angle. This configuration is my second trick to get a good photo. Here, your subject won't be looking into the sun; you will. Because the subject is in the sun, you can get a more balanced exposure with the background. This approach will be trial and error as you are bound to get lens flare (which I like). This is a little harder to execute, but your results can be stunning.
3. Use a fill flash. Using a flash to fight the sun seems like it would be like using a BB gun against Iron Man, but it's possible. There is a huge caveat here, this may or may not work with your on-camera flash. It definitely WON'T work with your iPhone or Andriod flash. From my experience, the best results will come from a separate flash unit. If you want to learn more about how to do this, click here for an excellent tutorial.
In conclusion, it's entirely possible to take amazing photos when it's sunny outside; it will just require a little bit of extra effort. And alternatively, the best time to take photos is when it's overcast. Benefit from those times when the sun goes behind the clouds. It's in these brief moments when you can get some amazing shots Becuase everything is illuminated well, but you avoid the harshness of the sun.
My favorite days to take photos are the cloudy days when I don't have to worry about having to fight the sun. Cloudy days make colors pop all the more will give you an even exposure allowing you to be more creative with composition. Which, in my opinion, excellent composition and story telling is what anyone should be trying to achieve.