Our smartphones are with us every moment of every day, so there's no excuse to brush them aside when it comes time to memorialize a perfectly grilled steak or a well-timed cannonball. Too bad a certain photo bomber — the sun — loves to jump in the frame and destroy a once photo-worthy moment.
But you can defy the sun responsibly at your next impromptu beach photo shoot by arming yourself with Banana Boat® Men's Triple Defense sunscreen and these practical tips for taking a photo in the summertime — one in which the sun isn't the star of the show.
Get the Sun Behind the Smartphone
Pesky as it is, the sun is often your best source of light — whether you're relaxing at the beach or climbing a 9,000-foot mountain. To make the most of it, position your subject so they're almost facing the sun, but try to keep it a little off to their side. It might take some shuffling around to find the right angle, but facing the sun head-on can cause Clint Eastwood-levels of squinting (which is probably not the look you're going for).
Use Your Hands
Sometimes it's impossible to get the shot you want without getting lens flare from the sun or from reflective surfaces that blow out the details, obscuring your subject. One lo-fi trick to reclaim colors and photo details is to cup your hands around your smartphone like a lens hood. It's a simple method to cut down lens flare, and sometimes it can get rid of it completely.
Expose and Focus for Faces
Most smartphones give you the ability to adjust an image's exposure and focus with a simple tap. If you're taking a photo of your friend, tap onto their face to make sure it comes out clear and well-lit. To show off smiling faces in a group of friends, try lining everyone's faces up so they're about the same distance and in roughly the same lighting conditions. Wait a second for your smartphone to adjust its settings before you take the shot. Afterwards, you can edit the photo using an app like Snapseed or Adobe Photoshop Touch.
Try HDR for Landscapes
HDR (or High Dynamic Range) options are built into many newer smartphone cameras, and they're great for shooting landscapes where some areas are well-lit and others are covered in shadow. Be prepared to hold your shot for a little while longer than usual though — HDR works by taking multiple photos one after the other, then cobbling together one Frankenstein photo with the best bits of each.
Plan for the Golden Hour
The softest, most flattering light from the sun comes in the hour after dawn and before dusk. It's not always easy to schedule your summer adventures, but if you're determined to capture your memories in the best possible light, you'll want to download a weather app like Sol that'll let you track that special time of day when colors are warmer and shadows are lighter.
Exercise Your Filter Game
The right filter can punch up even the most ho-hum photo, but proceed with caution — with great Instagram filters comes great responsibility. Load up on Banana Boat® Men's Triple Defense sunscreen before taking a selfie with high-saturation filters like "X-Pro II" or "Lo-Fi" — the worst selfie is one where you look like a lobster. Queue up "Willow" or "Inkwell" to get the classy black-and-white treatment on a sunset silhouette photo. "Rise" adds a soft yellow tint that's perfect for lending a vintage look to your summer memories — sans sun, of course.
Matt Marquez writes about geek culture and the arts. Follow him on Twitter at @mattmarquez.