Blue Skies and Sunshine: Sunny Day Photography Tips

You can’t always get the lighting you want and perfect weather can create light that’s less than ideal for photography. Don’t let blue skies & sunshine get in the way of a great shot!

Check out top sunny day photography tips to make the most of photographing under bright natural light.

Overlooking Tuckerman

“Photographing on bright sunny days? You can’t make a decent landscape photograph on a bright sunny day,” said the landscape photographer (me) who regularly gets up between 2 and 4 a.m., occasionally even earlier, to make photographs during the golden hours. When the light is beautiful, and warm, with the sun still low in the sky, that is when you make beautiful nature and landscape photographs.

Right?

Sort of. If you want to make your life as a landscape photographer easier, photograph only in good light. This means get up early, stay out late, only photographing during what is commonly referred to as “The Golden Hours.”

But what do you do when you can’t?

Not everyone visits a beautiful location during the best light of the day. When you’re on vacation for instance, you might be in the most scenic place in the world, a place that you may never visit again. Are you not going to take any pictures because the light wasn’t perfect?

Lately I’ve been forcing myself to make photos during the times of day I normally wouldn’t even dream of taking my camera out. Mostly I’m doing this to prove that I can, but also to show others that the few hours either side of sunrise or sunset are not the only time you can create great photos. Lastly, if I’m carrying my camera on a long hike, as in the photo above, I might as well be using it.

Making the best of bad light.

Black eyed Susan against weathered cedar shakes.

When I find myself out with my camera on a bright sunny day, either by choice or necessity, there are several ways I can work with the often harsh light of the mid day sun.

Tip #1: Find some shade.

Easily the easiest way to deal with bright sunshine is to shoot in the shade.

The way these black-eyed Susans stood out against the weathered wood siding meant I just had to take their picture. Fortunately they were on a shaded side of the building which gave me nice even light to work with. Had they been in the bright sunshine on the other side of the building I would have had to deal with harsh shadows and the possibility of over exposed highlights. Both of which would have resulted in a deleted photo, assuming I pressed the shutter in the first place.

Tip #2: Embrace the shadows, go black and white.

Winter Shadows

Harsh shadows and harsh light? I can work with that.

Normally by the time the sun is this high in the sky I’d be back home enjoying another cup of coffee. But these shadow, the untracked snow, there was no way I could pass this up. I knew I had a black and white photo in the making right before my eyes.

Tip #3: Exposure blending / HDR.

I know, I know, most photographers seem to have a love it or hate it mentality when it comes to HDR. But if you’re photographing in the middle of the day and you want to capture detail in both the highlights and shadows, exposure blending in one form or another is about the only option you have.

Stone arch bridge, Acadia National Park

On my first visit to Acadia National Park I saw this, one of the many stone arch bridges found throughout the park, and fell in love with it. Unfortunately with a long shot list and a limited amount of time it was on my last day, in the middle of the afternoon, before I was able to get back and photograph the bridge. Without HDR I would have had a photo in which either the bridge looked great, with all the bright sunny areas showing as over exposed bright white areas, or the bridge would be very dark, almost a silhouette, against the properly exposed bright areas.

I chose HDR and I’m quite happy with the results. My HDR application of choice by the way is HDR Efex Pro, part of the Nik Collection by Google.

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