There has been a lot of negative things said about photography during the midday sunlight. No doubt you’ll have heard that you should avoid taking photographs during the midday hours because of the harsh lighting. Similarly, you’ll have heard that you should only shoot at dawn and dusk. I’m here to add a little balance and logic to this photographic topic because I believe it is overstated.
A lot of us enjoy taking photographs when we are travelling. Often those travels will take us to warmer and sunnier climates where photography during the midday sunlight would produce very harsh shadows. We have been led to believe that these very harsh shadows are bad for photography and we should always avoid them. Nonsense!
Firstly, let’s change the word “harsh” to “deep” when we describe the shadows cast by the midday sunlight. These deep shadows can add a whole lot of interest to a photograph when they become an element of the picture. This is an effect that is best exploited in black and white photography. Black and white photography is only concerned with shapes, patterns, textures, light and dark. It has no concern for colour and the moods that colour conveys to an image. Therefore, the shadows produced by midday sunlight can be used to emphasise shapes, patterns, texture, as well as the light and dark areas of the scene. The depth of these shadows has a direct bearing on the effectiveness of your black and white composition.
Additionally, it is usually not difficult to find an area that is in full shade during the midday sunlight. Narrow streets are often a good source of shade and even lighting. Also, they are usually where you will see the locals taking refuge from the heat of the midday sun. Walk down those narrow streets and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you can find. The even lighting conditions produced by this shade is perfect for colour photography as well as black and white. During our many visits to Tuscany, we walk down countless narrow streets that offer a wealth of photographic opportunities: plants; people; framing and colours.
Many photographers will advise people only to photograph during dawn and dusk – the golden hours. In fact, I have heard some photographers telling people that they may as well put their camera away during the midday hours because it is almost impossible to take a good photograph outside the hours of dawn and dusk. What a waste that would be! All those hours, all those locations, all that time and money spent on planning and travelling, only to put your camera away for the majority of the day.
There is no doubt that the hours of dawn and dusk can produce some of the best photographs. They are without a doubt the best times of day for photographing because of the wonderfully warm and soft light they produce. However, do not simply think that once the sun climbs high in the sky, that you should put your camera away because you won’t be able to make a meaningful photograph.
Photography during the midday sunlight does offer us a lot of opportunities. It lends itself beautifully to black and white and it is a valuable learning tool to focus your mind before you focus your camera. Sorry, that was a bit cheesy, but you get my point.
Please take photographs during the midday sunlight and enjoy your results.