Working with harsh shadows and light

Let’s face it – most photographers know that taking photos outdoors on a sunny day between 11-3pm produces the most difficult natural light to work with. You get harsh shadows that cast darkness over entire scenes, blown-out skies, or overexposed frames.

Personally, I enjoy the challenge of this time of day. As a photographer who primarily works with natural light, it sparks my creativity and allows me to study and see how light flows and interacts within various scenes I’m composing and photographing.

So when you’re faced with harsh midday sun, here are two quick tips to try for stronger, more creative photos when working with harsh light.

Look for patterns

As difficult as it can be, the cool thing about harsh light is that it can cast patterned shadows all over the place if you look and observe close enough. Here’s an example from Bermuda where the midday sun created a nice linear patterned shadow from the railings of the balcony.

Working with harsh light - Photography

Use natural spotlights

Working with harsh light means there’s always natural spotlights where dark shadows don’t fall. To create interesting compositions, wait till someone steps into that natural spotlight. The photos below shot in Nice, France, illustrate this concept.

Working with harsh light - Photography

So what do you think? Next time you’re out and about, try these two tips for working with harsh light and dark shadows.

Check out more quick photo composition tips in my library.