Let the Sun In


It’s about time to continue my little series of practical tips – tips that can be used to enhance your photos. In the last instalment of this series I wrote about using a long exposure time on freehand to create a more energetic and somewhat abstract expression (Time Elongated – A Practical Tip). Today I want to talk about light.

Light is one of the most important factors that influence the quality of a photo. Light can make or destroy an otherwise excellent photo. In traditional photo literature and how-to-books we often learn that midday sunshine is bad. It creates harsh and unforgiven light with dark and ugly shadows. Certainly, that can sometimes be the case, but I disagree with the notion that it’s bad light in general. There is no such thing as bad light, only suitable or not suitable light for whatever you are trying to express. If you use the harsh light creatively, it can generate some wonderful photos.

Here is a way to turn that harsh midday light into a more subtle, soft and glowing illumination. Simply go inside and leave the door open behind you. The sunshine coming directly from above reflects on the ground and showers softly through the open door and into the room behind. Use the indirect light from the sun to create and almost unearthly setting for you photography.

The result does depend on the ground, though. If the outside of the door is covered with newly laid and black asphalt, the amount of reflections may be close to none. Then this tip doesn’t work. But with a lighter ground outside, it’s a delightful (excuse the pun) to illuminate persons or a still life in an interior setting.

This works particularly well in areas closer to equator, be it Mediterranean countries, the Caribbean, the Tropics or Subtropical areas where midday light is particularly harsh. Like in Cuba, from where I have just returned. The photo following this post is all illuminated by harsh midday sunshine coming through an open door to the left (and yes some light is streaming through the open window behind, but not illuminating anything facing the camera). It shows the celebration of quinceañera or a girl’s 15th birthday in Cuba.


65 thoughts on “Let the Sun In

  1. Very useful, since one often has to use what is present then and there. One can’t be everywhere at dusk and dawn.

  2. You can get rid of the worst effects of the harsh mid-day light with a polarising filter and a uv filter in series, but this idea of using reflected noon time light is wonderful, kind of like your own natural flash with reflector! 😀

  3. Thank you for the helpful pointers Otto, though I am still in the amateur stage of photography , I enjoy discovering tips on how toimprove the quality of my pics and find your photos amazing . Have a beautiful day and again, thanks very much.

  4. oh look at the beautiful color ! light ! soft, natural and I love that beautiful family 🙂 The rounded no sharp edges arc-like room complements the people in it. It is interesting to me how you picked up or made such a rounded abstract space in the whole image..an unusual photograph. I really like this one.

  5. reminds me of carrying those big reflection cardboard pieces to take portraits in midday sun under the shadow of a tree 🙂 it does make for a nice light!!

  6. A great tip as always Otto. From my hotel room in Brighton on England’s south coast, looking out over a grey sea and hearing the wind whipping across the bay outside, it may be some time before I use it!

  7. Hi Otto — what I like about your attitude toward photos is you believe there is always a way to make things work. You are not afraid to try new things, to experiment, and that’s a wonderful attitude. This line, ” Use the indirect light from the sun to create an almost unearthly setting for you photography” makes it sound so easy! But you are quite talented my friend. And a lot of that comes from your courageous take on whatever light/camera/setting you find yourself in. Very inspiring.

  8. I like this and it is a good reminder that there is no such thing as bad light as long as you know what to do with it. If I am out shooting, I’ve always consider the harsh afternoon light perfect for catching up on my zzzzz’s ~ but now know that there are still great photo ops to be found 🙂

  9. Like every new photographer, I’ve heard the “don’t shoot at midday” advice, and my midday photos have seemed to confirm its wisdom. Clearly, there’s a difference between this sort of midday shot and one in an open field under a clear sky. I suspect that every condition can be the “right” condition, if only we take time to learn which tips and tricks to utilize in a given situation.

    I must add that the composition of your photo is marvelou. The “V” formed by the people, and the light from the window, places all the attention right where it belongs: on the girl.

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