Tutorial: Summer Light Photography

Shadow play

As well as a warm light, the low sun of early morning also throws long shadows. These bring out the texture of rough surfaces, especially the fronts of buildings, monuments and statues. Landscapes of hills and fields also benefit from the low angle of the illumination.

As the sun rises in the sky the shadows become much shorter and stronger, and are generally less attractive. To eliminate these harsh shadows which can become particularly noticeable under the people’s eyes, you can turn on the flash to fill the shadows in and provide a more even light. Later in the day you may have to position your subject in the shade to avoid them squinting and provide a softer light.

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© Antonio Citro 2009, Canon EOS 50D

Changing light
The quality of daylight changes through the day. Outside the golden hours, the early morning and late afternoon sunlight still retains a warm colour, though more muted. Bright sunlight in the middle of the day is much bluer, with more contrast and throws unattractive, short shadows. Cloud cover will soften all these effects and give the most even light.

In addition, the sun appears to move across the sky during the day, so the front of a building that is in shadow in the morning might be bathed in sunlight in the afternoon. The direction and angle of sun depend on the time of year. Charts and calculators are available which give you this information for any time of day, latitude and longitude.

If you are on an organised tour, you might have only a few minutes to take photographs. However, if you are staying in the same place for a few days, it is worth going back to the same subjects at different times of day to see if the picture-taking opportunities have improved when the light illuminates it from a different position.

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