Crafting Images With The Mid-day Sun – Photography Experiments

You have probably heard of the Golden Hour or the Blue Hour and maybe some other hours. These are the “best times to shoot” according to most photographers, which usually means most landscape photographers. They advise, often strongly, against shooting in mid-day sun. And for the most part, for grand landscapes, I often agree.

I don’t, however, think that advice is sound for all types of photography. I’ve shot weddings in the middle of the day. I shoot portraits and products and all kinds of things in the middle of the day. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, it’s the only time available!

And you know what? I’ve survived. I’ve survived shooting in mid-day sun and so can you. Don’t believe me? Let’s have you try and report back to me what you find.

Here’s the experiment you can run:

Your experiment for today is to head out when the sun is high (if it’s cloudy, you might need to wait, because there is little challenge in shooting on a day with nice, even light). Exact timing is not important, but let’s keep it to a four hour window on either side of the middle of the day.

NOTE: if you are in a country who is currently using Day Light Saving, that time when the sun is at mid-day is actually 1pm. Screwy, I know, which is another reason we should get rid of the crappy concept, but I digress, so back to the topic. Let’s just slice it to be 11am-3pm.

The sun is going to be harsh, but that is no reason why you can’t create interesting and beautiful images of your favorite subject matter. Need some hints on how to keep sane?

1. Keep an eye on your histogram to make sure your main subject is not blown out or too dark.
2. There will possibly be a lot of contrast in your shot (bright spots and dark shadows) so think about your metering mode and how best to use it.
3. Use your Exposure Bias/Compensation to adjust as needed for hard light.
4. Look under things. Diffused light can be your friend and finding a spot of shade will help. Don’t have diffused light? Make it! Just use a piece of paper to shade a flower or stretch a white sheet across an empty picture frame for a large subject.
5. Get close. Show some details to lessen the space you need to cover and make your metering more simple.
6. Shoot some silhouettes.

Done!

One more hint: What else works well in bright sun? Action! You can crank up the speed on your camera using Shutter Priority mode (or by using Aperture Priority mode and opening your aperture almost all the way) and capture some things usually not possible. Water splashing (add some food coloring to a glass of water and experiment), acrobatics, kids playing, pets running. All those things and more are a lot easier in bright light.

And when you are done, please post a link to some samples in the comments section below. I’d love you to see what you come up with.

Need more encouragement? Here are some of my samples to get you started.

Questions?  Pop ’em like Pez in the comments section below or email me at peter@peterwestcarey.com.


Photography Basics – A 43 Day Adventure, and its companion 40 Photography Experiments, are series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey. The series are designed to unravel the mysteries of photography, helping you can take better pictures. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

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