Harsh natural sunlight


TPF Noob!
May 18, 2003
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Hello, I am shooting outdoors scenes both portraits and nature. I would like some advice on what filter to buy to tone down the harsh sunlight in these pictures and balance the light better. I know it's a got to be a neutralizer of some sort, but all the numbers and letters attached to filters mean nothing to me. Can someone please explain the filter rating system to me and how I can use it to buy the correct filter?

Thanks so much, Erik Meinhardt
well, first off, you might try setting up some kind of canopy. take a cheap (works better than expensive.. lower threadcount.) white sheet from wal mart or something, and set it up as a kind of canopy. it will diffuse the very harsh light that you'll get shooting in the middle of the day. As far as filters to lessen the harshness of the sun, you got me there..
Thanks for responding, yeah, I thought about a canopy, but dragging a canopy through the woods doesn't make too much sense. I was hoping for an easier way out with a filter. Thanks for getting back to me though!
The first filter you should get is a polarizer. It cuts the reflections on all non-metallic surfaces that can fool your meter, then look into an ND filter if you shoot a lot of landscape.
yeah, I guess a polarizer would be handy to have, but it's not going to do anything to tone down hard midday shadows, which is essentially what your problem is going to be. You need some way to diffuse the light. Diffuse light is sooo much more appealing for portraits than, say, the sun or a bare bulb.
Anyway, if you're going to buy a polarizer, keep in mind you'll need a circular polarizer if you're using an Autofocus camera, otherwise a linear will do just fine. You won't notice the difference between the two (aside from price), as there IS none to anything but an AF sensor. You'll jut need to figure out the size filter you need. It should be listed somewhere on your lens. Perhaps as a number following a circle with a line through it. (Symbol for diameter) Anyhow, when you pop this polarizer on your lens, try looking at the sky approximately 90 degrees away from the sun, and twist the ring on it, and you'll see the sky darken and get lighter, depending on the positioning of the ring. It will make colors more vivid also. (I shoot black and white, so I just use it to cut reflections and darken skies. And occasionally as an ND filter :D)
Thanks for the tip. I have a circular polarizer, and the problem I run across is little rainbows appearing in my picture. I am using my ultra wide angle lens (19-35 mm) with close up filters. I suppose I could try slapping on the polarizer underneath that. See... I wanted to get closeups, but closeups with a greater depth of field than my macro zoom would allow. Therefore I came up with the idea to get a set of filters for my wide angle zoom lens. I did manage to get some great shots, but again, the light was too harsh for some. I think you're right that I need a diffuser... or a neutral density or something to that effect. I just want to know if anyone knows the 82A or 85B or whatever neutralizer might help this situation. Thanks for your input, I have to remember to use my polarizers more often!

hey fellas! im actually using two filters right now for that very same purpose. A uv filter and a polarizer. those two usually get most of the "harsh" light out. good luck!


Something else you may want to try is to use your flash as fill in, aimed at the shadow areas. It will lighten them up a bit. As for filters, a polarizer AND a UV may help, but I'm not very knowledgable in filters.


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