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Back when I was first learning the very basics of photography, one rule passed on by veteran photographers kept coming to my mind over and over again: always have the sun behind you. Everyone knew this rule back in those days, even those with little interest in photography. So why would you always want the sun behind you? The short, simple answer is that if you put the sun in front of your camera, you and your camera won't be able to see anything else. You will most likely end up with silhouettes if you rely on the automatic exposure settings.
So is there no way you can use harsh sunlight coming from in front of you? There is actually and one of them is called back lighting your subject. Basically, when you're photographing someone or something against the sun, you have to switch your camera to manual mode or otherwise it will go crazy and start producing all kinds of bad pictures.
Probably the most important rule when photographing in harsh light is to focus on having your subject exposed correctly. This is where most photographers get it wrong. They think too much about the surroundings and ruin the photo with a bad exposure. Obviously this is not a technique to be used by perfectionists who can't handle any overexposed or underexposed areas in the image, but if you use it right, harsh sunlight can work with you in producing impressive results.
From a settings point view, there are a couple of rules that generally apply. Number one is that you should set your camera's ISO speed to the lowest possible value. You already have enough light, you don't need any more. Number two involves using your aperture wide open. You want the nice, blurry background. The actual adjustments should come from shutter speed and shooting angle. You will surprised how much a five degree change in camera angle can mean to exposure with the sun in front of you.
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The best way to test it is to go out and experiment. Until then, here's a very informative video from Photographer Overnight. Enjoy !