How to Capture Great Photos at All Times of Day

Like most photographers, I like shooting at the edge of the light to get great photos. The golden hour is always preferred. I love to shoot during something called the blue hour as well – when the sun is below the horizon, and the sky turns deep blue. Especially in the city, when the building lights start to come out, and you still have sunlight in the sky – that’s just magical.

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Of course, the golden and blue hours are not the only times you can capture great photos. Some people will go out and shoot during sunrise at early morning, go back to their hotel for the rest of the morning then go back out again when it’s late in the afternoon. For landscape photographer golden hours provides a perfect opportunity to capture some stunning photos like the one you see below (Photos by Jay Patel):

  • Coyote Buttes, Arizona

    Coyote Buttes, Arizona

  • Florida Keys, Florida (FL), USA

    Florida Keys, Florida (FL), USA

Most of the time, I don’t have the luxury of wasting those hours. So I have to find places where the light is good in the middle of the day. What you see in the photo below is actually the reflection of a huge yellow building on the water surrounding a pair of Venetian gondolas. Even though the light coming from the sun was harsh, the reflected light became soft and warm.  This created a nice contrast with the cooler light in the shade. So the trick here, when the sun is high in the sky, is to find a natural reflector. This will work wonders to get you great light, even at noon.

Gondolas, Venice, Italy

Gondolas, Venice, Italy

Reflections are not the only thing you can shoot at midday. For landscape photographers, midday provides some fantastic opportunities to capture unique images. Here are few examples:

  • Yellowstone, Wyoming

    Use the Spot Light effect created by broken clouds cover in middle of the day – Yellowstone, Wyoming

  • Iceland

    Overcast skies are ideal for shooting waterfalls like these – Valley of Tears, Iceland

  • Moriki Island, Fiji

    Harsh midday light can bring out brilliant colors in tropical waters – Moriki Island, Fiji

You don’t have to limit yourself to natural light, either. The image below was taken at midnight in the streets of Seville during Semana Santa. Artificial light from the floodlights lit up the crowded street while the light from the candle illuminated the cloth of the penitential robe (typical dress worn during the Holy Week in Spain). The interplay of the two lights caught my eye.

Semana Santa celebrations. Seville, Spain

Semana Santa celebrations. Seville, Spain

Flash is not the only way to balance our natural vs Ambient light. If your subject is small enough you can shoot it in the shade, use your own body to create shade or use a small diffuser or reflector to balance out the light.

  • Birubi Beach, Anna Bay, NSW, Australia

    Used a diffuser to create filter light – Anna Bay, NSW, Australia

  • Big Island, Hawaii (HI), USA

    Jay used his body to provide shade for the subject – Big Island, Hawaii (HI), USA

So if you – like me – can’t afford to waste time in the middle of the day, I encourage you to be creative with the light that’s available. Remember, you don’t always have to include the sky in your composition. Also, try using a natural reflector to soften the harsh afternoon rays. Artificial light, whether it’s the glow of the cityscape at the blue hour or floodlights at midnight, can have a magical effect as it interacts with other light sources. Whatever time of day you are shooting, the key is this: there is always good light available. You just have to find it.

Feel free to share your own tips and photos in the comments below.

About Author Ugo Cei

Ugo Cei is a fine-art travel and landscape photographer from Italy. If you were to ask him what he does, he would say that he is an educator who helps photography enthusiasts sharpen their skills, so that they can take amazing pictures.

He does this in various ways. First of all, by providing a wealth of free content here on Visual Wilderness and on his own website.

He leads photography tours and workshop to some cool destinations, including Oman and Venice.

He co-hosts and publishes a weekly podcast about travel photography, The Traveling Image Makers. Every week, they pick the brains of famous and not-so-famous travel photographers to learn what it means to travel for the love of photography and photograph for the love of travel.

  • dabhand

    I make a lot of mono images and find midday (or harsh) light very useful for shooting high contrast scenes and especially good for the bleached wood in ghost towns.

  • Jim the Photographer

    Good insights and suggestions! I would like to see more articles about how to capture better photos in harsh daylight. This past September and October I drove from Connecticut to California (and back); I did not always have the chance to shoot during the golden and blue hours; I photographed some beautiful landscapes in glaring sun at 2:00 p.m.– I didn’t have any other choice. Most of these sites were miles from the nearest town (and hotel). I would like to learn tips and tricks to take the best photos under these less than ideal conditions.

  • Al Ada

    Excellent advice! I find the need to not waste time traveling so sometimes have to shoot in harsh lighting conditions.

  • Bpham.com

    Great article and awesome images.