Jessica Hickerson Photography » Blog

Photographers in California all obsess over one thing: “that LIGHT!” And while the sun is a huge asset to making our images warm and golden, it can also be a hinderance. Many times photographers will find themselves in a situation where there is no where to hide- literally! No trees to borrow shade from or tall obstructions to place in front of the sun, and that pesky light is just exploding straight into your lens. This has happened to me when the wedding day portraits need to take place during a less-than-ideal time and even more frequently when I shoot beach sessions. 90% of the time I have my subjects backlit which can mean shooting directly into the sun. At times my camera is not even able to focus because there is too much light, and the resulting image is hazy and not at all sharp.

So let me introduce you to a little trick I made up to help in these situations. I’ll call it “The Disappearing Hand Method!” There are two ways to do it, so stick with me as I try to explain.

#1: Hold up your hand in front of your lens to block the sun. Grab your focus, then then remove your hand. The sun will still be very strong but your subject will be in focus. In editing you will need to up the contrast more than usual but this can be a fun way to add some artistic flare (literally!) to your image set.

In this example I help up my hand and toggled my focus point to the groom, then removed my hand and captured this:

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35mm | ISO 320 | f/2.2 | 1/2000

At this engagement session location, I used to couple as a shield from the sun in the majority of my images. I wanted some diversity so I took the shot on the left using my  hand as a shield to grab the focus, took the shot, and then moved slightly to the left to grab the second shot where Colton is blocking the sun.

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35mm | ISO 100 | f/2.0 | 1/200

This next example was from an elopement in Joshua Tree. I had Patti and Nolan walk alone so they could be in the moment and shot them at 85mm. They started out in beautiful light (left image) and then their kiss took place in direct sunlight. The middle image is the RAW and the right image is the edit with some contrast and blacks brought back into it. Personally I LOVE images where they feel like they are lost in the light… But that an artistic preference!

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85mm | ISO 200 | f/2.0 | 1/640

 

#2: Hold up your hand in front of your lens to block the sun and LEAVE IT THERE. (This works best if your hand is “floating” in open sky.) In editing you will be removing your hand.  I use this method when it is almost impossible to even see what I am shooting but I cannot change my position.

The following image had the sun at the very top of the frame. If I were taller I might have been able to shoot down on my subject and still maintain even lighting without needing my hand. But I decided to block the sun with my hand and remove it later, achieving even colors and a backlit subject!

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35mm | ISO 200 | f/2.2 | 1/1250

In the next two images I was standing on a dock and shooting the bridal party on the next dock. The sun was setting but we didn’t have time to wait for it to hide behind the rock jetty. The image on the left is RAW and on the right is edited. You can see in the first image the subjects are not as sharp and the bridesmaids on the right are almost completely lost in the haze. And in the second image they are all in focus and there is less haze.

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Both images: 35mm | ISO 320 | f/2.5 | 1/1000

I hope my little trick helps you to have some fun and learn to control that crazy California sunlight a bit better! As usual, feel free to leave questions in the comments.

 

Want to learn more from Jessica? Click here for more information about her Coaching Program!

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Carrie and Ian’s wedding was all about fun from the start. After 6 years together, there was so much excitement and joy behind their wedding day. They wanted it to be a party their friends would never forget. Ian and his groomsmen started the day with drinks and cartoons, while the bridesmaids watched the sun make its way towards the ocean from their hotel balcony. A friend officiated the sunset ceremony, the couple wrote their own vows, and Carrie DIYed every little detail- it was the perfect day. Here are just a few favorites:

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Photographer: Jessica Hickerson Photography

Second Shooter: Sincerely A.

Venue: King Harbor Yacht Club

Wedding Dress: Watters from BHLDN

Bridesmaids Dresses: Rent the Runway

Caterer: In N Out

Florals + Design by the bride and her family!

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The first time I met Ilyce and Daniel was the day they got engaged. The next few months were a whirlwind of wedding plans, happy jitters, and planning for their future. They found out Daniel had been accepted to medical school on the East Coast so their wedding became a going away party for their closest friends & family as well. It was a perfect May day filled with happy tears and the sweetest, sentimental details put together by the bride. Daniel and Ilyce are the kind of couple that make you believe in soul mates, and I couldn’t be more grateful they asked me to capture their intimate celebration! Congratulations & love you two!
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Mara and Matt were engaged for almost three years. They met in New York and knew right away they wanted to get married. They jumped into wedding planning, putting together a traditional New York wedding with everything from the ballroom to huge flower arrangements and 250 guests. But something felt wrong. She wanted their wedding to be a celebration of their unique relationship + love for each other and that surely wasn’t a big wedding. So they threw away those plans and kept living the engaged life, waiting for something to feel “right.”

They started playing with the idea of eloping and one day decided to just go for it. It would need to be close to the ocean because the two of them spent so many early mornings watching the sunrise together. Italy sounded like a dream, but they wanted their family to be able to attend.

Late last year they stumbled across Big Sur and immediately knew they wanted to elope there. They found a gorgeous home to rent, booked me as their photographer, and told a select group of friends and family in case they wanted to make the journey with them.

Their elopement became a small, intimate wedding because of how much LOVE surrounded them! Their family was so happy to forget the traditional wedding and go along with this adventure. The entire day was filled with tears and so much joy for these two people joining their lives. Mara and Matt, I am so grateful for the two of you inviting me to tell your story. Your elopement was an absolute dream and I’m looking forward to photographing your family in the years to come.

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Nicole and Jason offered to model for a coaching session I taught last week. From her sweet style and New York accent to his trademark smirk and eyes he couldn’t take off of her, every moment of their mini engagement session was filled with love. In the middle of my teaching, the two of them practiced their favorite dancing-in-the-kitchen moves and instantly stole my heart. I am so grateful to know them and am excited to share a few favorite images:

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