If you’re looking for intense, saturated colours take pictures either at mid-morning or mid-afternoon
By 9am the sun reaches an angle of about 45 degrees and at this point the light has pretty much the same intensity as it has at noon, remaining that way until around 4pm. Its colour temperature is also virtually neutral throughout this period.
By 9am the sun reaches an angle of about 45 degrees and at this point the light has pretty much the same intensity as it has at noon, remaining that way until around 4pm.
Its colour temperature is also virtually neutral throughout this period.
There’s still plenty of scope for taking quality pictures at mid-morning and mid-afternoon – far more so than at midday. Because of the sun‘s relatively low position, its light still has strong directionality, and although shadows are now shorter and more clearly defined than at dawn, they aren‘t overwhelming. Colours also appear at their most saturated and vivid at these times.
By placing the low, early to mid-morning sun at different angles to your subject you can create a variety of lighting effects. For example, if you‘re shooting a landscape, direct sidelight will pick out all the subtle contours and textures.
Beaches suit morning or afternoon photography. Here, the sun‘s angle has brought out the patterns of the ripples.
The same effect can be exploited when shooting close-ups of textured subjects. Direct sidelight is also great for photographing architecture because it brings out 3D form and creates a bright, colourful image.
Contrast can be quite high, so meter carefully to avoid burning out the highlights. To be sure, take a spot-meter reading from a mid-tone area and bracket your exposures, or take an average reading and dial in up to – stops of exposure compensation.
A little cloud cover can help to reduce contrast slightly, but with very overcast, diffused lighting buildings appear flat and lack sparkle.
Another option is to place the sun behind your subjects and turn them into silhouettes. Castles, statues and other landmarks look striking backlit at this time of day, as do beach scenes – think bold outlines, silvery-blue tones and shimmering highlights. Finally, shooting with the sun behind your shoulder will give you even, low contrast lighting and the most richly saturated hues and blue skies.
This effect is well suited to colourful landscapes and gardens, reflections in lakes, beach scenes and other subjects where shape, pattern and colour take precedent over texture.
Fit a circular polariser to enrich weaker skies, eliminate unwanted reflections and cut down on glare for even more saturated hues. A polariser will also bring out a wider, more intense range of hues in the sea.
If you’re using a wide-angle lens, be careful because variations in the degree of polarisation across the sky can make it look patchy.
Early afternoon light
During summer, there‘s not much difference in intensity between mid-morning and mid-afternoon light. However it may have a slightly warmer tint in the early afternoon due to increased atmospheric pollution and haze that‘s built up during the day.
Also consider that subjects that are directly lit in the late morning can already be blighted by intrusive shadows by early afternoon.