In the old days, the Kodak Guide to Photography suggested having the sun behind you coming from you left or right shoulder.
The image above is a good example of how frontal lighting creates a bright, full colour image. Having the light source, as in this example, to the left create delightful shadow detail making the image quite inviting. It is a fine image shot in a convention manner.
Here is another example. Front lighting is important in this case as the subject is both the vessel as well as the person taking its picture. You want to display lots of information - information painted with the frontal lighting. It would not work as a silhouette.
Now, what would happen if you placed the light source in front of the camera requiring you to shoot into the sun. Your first consideration is "what is the subject?" Is it the graphics of the image or is it detail in the image?
With the following image it is the graphics. When I arrived at the location I noticed that the tall ship was delightfully outlined by the sun that was low in the sky. As well, both the vessel and the people and artifact on the dock created very intriguing shadows.
The image above is what I saw. To me it is a stunning. Actually, this was shot as a project for the metroblenznewsquad and was subsequently published in the Metro, a vancouver daily newspaper. I guess it worked.
Now, what makes this picture work. First, the sun was low in the sky resulting in a blue sky and great shadows. Secondly, I placed the sun behind one of the boat structures making the vessel the subject, not the sun. Thirdly, the vessel, though the subject, is only 1/2 of the picture. Your eye is drawn to the ship then drawn to the shadows on the dock, then back to the vessel. It is a very dynamic image ... dynamic meaning the eye is invited to move about the image.
You can also back-light quite effectively with the sun in the image. This is what I did with the above image. It is the same subject however the sun is an important element. Having the sun as a part of the picture creates three focuses of interest: the vessel, the sky, and the sun. The city skyline is so small that I didn't consider it more than the horizon.
So, there you have it. Don't give up taking picture in the old "Kodak" fashion. However, start experimenting and get that light source in front of you.
E-mail me if you have any thought or questions.
Get out there and record some life.