What are the Best Subjects to Photograph at Midday? :: Digital Photo Secrets

What are the Best Subjects to Photograph at Midday?

by David Peterson 2 comments

The middle of the day can be difficult for photographers. You’re often faced with a harsher light from the sun that can often make your images appear washed out. If you’re shooting landscapes, there’s often such a huge difference between the sky and the ground below that the photos you take are practically unusable. Many of my readers have asked me which types of subjects are best for these mid-day photo shoots. In this article, you’ll find out.

So here’s the number one problem you face in taking mid-day photos. There’s a very strong difference in brightness between the ground below and the sky above. When your camera takes a picture, it can only get the correct brightness for one or the other. If the ground looks just fine, the sky is probably completely white. And if the sky is a healthy blue, chances are the ground is too dark.

Some photographers use filters to overcome this problem, but that can only do so much. It all amounts to a difference in light, and you’re simply much better off waiting until the sun goes down to get that ideal landscape photo.

In the middle of the day, the sun bleaches the sky, and it appears whitish with very little detail.
Photo by Sam Beebe

Don’t zoom out. Zoom in and take close ups.

Mid-day photography is all about the closeups. The least amount of sky you get in the photo, the better. No matter what you’re photographing, the sky will almost always look white. That’s why it’s helpful to find a shaded area and take pictures of your subject in there. I personally like hiking through a dense forest during the middle of the day. That’s when you get the best photos.

It also helps to place your subject in front of a dark background. This will keep the exposure completely even. Don’t be surprised if you have to use a tripod to do this. Shaded areas don’t have a lot of light, even in the middle of the day. You might need to lower your shutter speed, and if you don’t have a tripod on hand, you’ll get motion blurs from camera shake. Watch out for this.

This flower looks nice and colorful against the dark background of the forest floor, even in the middle of the day.

Photograph people in the shade

Shadows don’t always have to be a bad thing. Sometimes they make interesting patterns that can be a lot of fun when you’re photographing people. Just have a look at this photo.

I really like how the mid day sun brings out the texture of the wall behind the girl. It’s a goofy and fun picture that’s ideal for those sunny mid-day afternoons.
Photo by Andy Eick

If you really want to get even more creative, you can bring your own umbrellas or external flashes to the shooting location. Umbrellas help to dampen the sun’s harsh light, and the flashes get rid of the shadows the sun can cast when it’s at its highest.

On overcast days, you have more options

You don’t really need to seek shade on an overcast day. That’s because you’re already in the shade. You will need to focus on taking closeup pictures, but you should have at least a few more options. Consider local landmarks, pets, kids, murals, and anything else that looks good close up.

On a bright sunny day, the shadows on this statue would be too strong. But when it’s overcast, you get a very nice and diffuse kind of light.
Photo by Roberto Verzo

Color can become a problem when you’re shooting on an overcast day as well. Try to find subjects that look colorful, even on a dark grey day. The more you zoom in to isolate your subject, the better the colors tend to turn out. If you try get the whole scene, everything starts to look like a grey mess. That’s something worth avoiding.

As you can see, there are plenty of things to photograph in the mid day sun. You just need to look around in shaded areas and get in close. Leave the landscapes for dinner time and breakfast. That’s when they look the best anyway.

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  1. Jay says:

    Good tips, thanks.

  2. Andy says:

    I find time of day interesting.

    I have a shot of buildings show at midday. Everyone that sees it thinks it was shot at sunrise (the building face is north-south orientation).

    I have a bridge that was shot about 15 minutes before sundown and people hate it because they think that the colors are "wrong."

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