Photography in harsh lighting can be very difficult, especially when the sun is in front of you. When this is the case, the top of your subject will often be much more bright than the front. This can create situation in which there is too much contrast for your subject to look natural. While you can't always fix the situation, if shoot in RAW, you may find that sometimes you can, and you can frequently improve your photographs with software.
If you're shooting in RAW, your image contains more information than a JPEG file can hold, and so if you do your editing with the RAW file, there's more data to work with, especially in the highlights. If your exposure has retained some detail in the highlights, there are at least two thing you can try in order to make your photograph look more natural. I'm going to tell you what I do in Lightroom, but if you use a different program, you may find that it does the same thing with different terminology.
- Localized Editing. I usually first try using Lightroom's paintbrush. I choose a size that allows me to select the highlights I want to darken and a feather that blends naturally into the other portions of the photo. Then I drag the exposure slider to the left to darken my selection. If I need to I can use the "erase" brush to erase the brush strokes that extended outside where the highlights were. If you've blown out your highlights--that is, if they are so overexposed that you have no detail--this will not help. You may make the area darker, but you will not get back detail, so it will look even less natural.
- General Editing. If that doesn't work, or if your program does not support localized editing, try lowering the exposure for the entire image and then raising the "fill light" of the photo to lighten the darker portions of the image. Be careful, though, if you add too much fill light, you may end up with noisy images.
The above images are of an American Bittern from Merritt Island. The sun was in front of me causing significantly bright highlights. Many times in these situations I don't even bother taking the photos, but I can't resist photographing bitterns when I see them. I had enough detail in the highlights to do use the paintbrush to lower the exposure. I then added some vibrance to make the colors look a little more saturated. While I wouldn't call these photos perfect, I ended up with photos that made me glad I decided to shoot into the sun.
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