8 Tips for Taking Better Photos in Difficult Lighting Conditions

Photography is a tough job at the best of times, but certain lighting conditions make it harder to get a great shot. One of the trickiest times to take photos is in the middle of a sunny day.

Besides the fact that temperatures are often highest around noon, the lighting is also harsh, especially in summer. Therefore, making your subjects stand out – or capturing any type of photo that looks interesting – is a lot trickier than, say, golden hour.

However, sunny weather doesn’t mean you have to leave the camera indoors. Let’s discuss the top tips for taking better photos in difficult lighting conditions.

1. Go inside

Photo of a photographer inside

Let’s be honest: being outside at lunchtime during the summer is not always pleasant. If you live somewhere with a warm climate, you will almost certainly agree with this statement. Temperatures are often uncomfortable and ultraviolet rays can put your health at risk if you stay out in the sun for too long.

If you don’t want to be outside on those hot days, you can capture plenty of exciting photos indoors. Use the weather as an opportunity to capture the life of your hometown or city indoors; you can go to a museum, for example, or you can find a building with intriguing interiors.

As well as capturing unique images that tourists might miss, you’ll have the added benefit of air conditioning.


2. Use a lens filter

If you shoot with your standard lens in bright lighting, you may struggle to get the colors and tones you want. Fortunately, you have options if you find yourself in this boat.

Using a lens filter is one of the easiest ways to make sure the sun doesn’t ruin your images. You can find filters for different lens sizes, and many are compatible with multiple camera manufacturers.

The price of lens filters varies from brand to brand, and the amount you pay will also depend on the size of the lens you choose to buy one for. You can find what you are looking for online in most countries; to save money, consider using a second-hand photography store.

3. Take photos in manual mode

Contrary to what many people believe, you don’t have to religiously stick to manual mode to capture great photos. However, you will find that the function is useful in several situations; taking pictures in bright light is an example.

When shooting in manual mode, you’ll have more control over how your images look. You can determine how much you want to raise or lower the exposure, and you won’t have to worry about compensating your camera with unwanted ISO, aperture or shutter speed.

If you’ve never used manual mode on your camera, you can find the feature by setting your dial to “M”. For cameras without an M dial, you will find an equivalent that does the same job.

4. Do not shoot in the direction of the sun

Have you ever looked at a photo you took on a sunny day and thought it was beautiful at the time, but gasped in horror after downloading it to your computer? In many cases, the problem may stem from shooting directly at the sun.

Shooting in the same direction as the sun can have a positive impact on your photos, especially if you’re deliberately trying to capture some kind of glare. But if you’re not trying to achieve a particular look, you can make your job much trickier while editing.

In most cases, you can quickly improve the look of your photos by taking photos with the sun behind you. This will help you capture better shadows and add depth to your image. Speaking of shadows…

5. Think about shadows

Photo of people walking with their shadows

Strong lighting can make photography more difficult, but one of the benefits is that such weather conditions often create darker shadows. And for you as a photographer, these shadows are a fantastic opportunity to capture more dramatic images.

When you’re on the go, try looking for interesting shadows that can create strong contrast. Examples you’ll notice in most places include:

  • Trees
  • Buildings and walls
  • Stairs

You can also use shadows and lighting to create unique portraits if you are shooting a model. For example, you can stand indoors with them and have them watch through half-open blinds.

6. Try black and white photography

If your usual style of photography doesn’t perform well in harsher lighting, you can always try something new. Black and white photography, for example, will always stand the test of time; if you’ve resisted trying this genre, you might find that noon is the perfect time to change that.

Needless to say, black and white photography isn’t as easy as changing your camera profile. You’ll need to think about shadows and exposure, as well as the scene you’re shooting. You can try several photography styles, such as streets and portraits.

7. Change your editing style

Image showing the Lightroom logo on a Mac

If you’ve just been exposed to the sun and struggled to take photos you want to be proud of, all hope is not lost. Although you should strive for as much precision as possible with the camera when shooting, you can still create interesting works of art in the post-production phase.

Every photographer has their favorite editing software; some prefer Adobe Lightroom, while others like Capture One. But whatever your preference, you can find several tools to change the look of your images.

If you haven’t changed your editing style in a while, it might be time to change it. For example, change your color grading with tools like Adobe Color.

8. Have fun

Photo of a person taking pictures through the window

We’re going to sound counterproductive for a moment: photography is more enjoyable when your main goal isn’t to take the next Instagram banger or capture portfolio-worthy shots. You can have these goals if you want to, but you often set yourself up for disappointment.

As an alternative approach, we recommend making fun your primary goal. It’ll take the pressure off of taking perfect shots, and you’ll almost always get better shots when you’re not thinking too hard about them.

Most photographers don’t come away from every shoot with a selection of images they’re proud of. Making fun your main goal will ensure that you are not too disappointed if you live one of these days, because at least you had a good time.

Don’t give up the camera just because it’s sunny outside

Many photographers prefer to stay indoors when the lighting is harsh, and their decision is understandable. Taking photos when the sun is at its highest is often much more complex and your standard style may not be compatible with these particular weather conditions.

However, you can get good photos any time of the day. If you’ve never tried shooting in difficult lighting conditions, consider this a challenge. Even if you don’t get any newsworthy photos, you’ll probably have fun at the very least.

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