Best Kept Secret Blog

Tips for Shooting in Mid-Day Light

Mid-Day light is the most contrasty, least flattering, and possibly the toughest to get great shots in. As with any lighting, there are three main points to light.

1) Quality

2) Direction/angle

3) Intensity

We are coming up on the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere and “High-Noon June” is not quality, has a bad direction (basically straight down) and the most intensity. So how do you get good photos in basically the worst light ever? Here are some of my quick suggestions, based on subject matter:


  • Reschedule if possible
  • Watch for reflected green off of grass back under the chin, eyes and such – not a flatting color on skin
  • Go indoors
  • Look for shade with open sky for indirect lighting that is flattering on face and in the eyes
  • Watch for blue when in shadows, as open sky is cold and blue
  • Control the light with diffusers and reflectors and objects available or brought on location
  • Bring in flash and lighting modifiers – practice and understand your capabilities, limitations and options
  • ND filter to nuke the ambient and then bring in better light
  • Watch for bright backgrounds – very easy to blow out the background when trying to control light on a subject outdoors in these conditions – there are some clever options here


  • Don’t book mid-day events
  • Shoot them, but never show them in your portfolio
  • Control the location and the schedule as much as possible
  • Become really good at nuking most of the ambient and bringing in your own light


  • Good luck – very tough
  • Shoot in Infrared – I do this quite often as IR can be quite strong and contrasty in the middle of the day maximizing the IR look if you like that sort of thing
  • Loooooong exposure – heavy, heavy ND (neutral density) and make exposures 30 seconds to several to many minutes long – why does this help? It allows the sun to move, allowing the shadows to move, and gets you a very interesting result that can give a nice outcome in the right places
  • Use this time of day to rest, scout for later locations, travel to your next location, or process landscapes shot in better light ;-)

Products, commercial, etc.

  • Reschedule if possible
  • Have the ability to control the contrast and get the look that is needed
  • Look at products like ScrimJims, California Sunbounce and other items that maximize your control in such conditions

Only shoot photos that maximize this time of day

  • Dying in summer desert heat – easy
  • Examples of bad light – easy
  • Summer sunlight shots – the right time of day possibly for that look

Flash Tips

I get this question a lot. To really make great photos in mid-day light and have that light in the scene, you really have to control the light. You realize very quickly several factors:

  • Flash is pretty weak when compared to the sun
  • Flash does not travel very far compared to the sun
  • You never seem to have too much light when trying to overpower the sun

Overpowering the sun is a great method – use the sun as a second, or third light source and control its intensity in-camera. But to do so you need powerful lights. You can do this by:

High Speed Sync

  • Beyond the native curtain sync of your camera – but your light will become weaker the faster shutter speed you have – you always have to give up something to get something
  • Your light has to be pretty close to the subject
  • You likely need more than one light, possibly even 4 or more ganged together, or a strong studio strobe, to really control the outcome
  • Zoom your flash heads to get them to travel a little further
  • Use a light modifier to control the light direction
  • Dedicated equipment to get this done, get it off camera, trigger the flashes, etc. = expensive

Standard Sync Speeds

  • Between 1/60 and 1/250 for most cameras – want a higher native sync speed? = buy a different camera body
  • Small aperture can nuke some ambient – but gives you little control over DoF options (plus in reality, it often is not enough control of the ambient)
  • Your shutter speed offers very little control over strong ambient because you cannot go beyond the native sync speed of your shutter – so you often must use a strong ND filter to nuke the ambient coming into the camera
  • When you use an ND filter to nuke the ambient, you are also removing power from your flash(es) so again, they need to be closer, more powerful, or more of them, or all the above – always give up something to get something, often money

With flashes you often need as much power as you can get, and you almost never have enough. Small flashes in light modifiers diminish the output. Small flash does not travel very far (inverse square law) and must often be close to the subject. Go and try it and see for yourself.

Hey, if you are interested in an affordable workshop on this topic, or an eBook, let me know.

Infrared Feels Good

It has been far too long since I have dedicated a day to just shooting with the IR converted camera. Felt good to take it out again, and something I plan on doing more and more.

3 by 3

Waiting For Water

Chelan Evening Park

Chelan Evening Picnic


Short Films

I am redefining myself and getting back to my roots. I am now working on short films along with my photography and have dozens of projects to script and produce. Here is a very rough sample of what I am talking about:

Short films for high school seniors, short wedding films and a slew of personal projects is the focus of this work.

Where Am I

I have been vacant for awhile, I know!
I am coming back though. I have had some other things to concentrate on, like health & wellness, weight loss, branding, business overlook, new projects and ventures…

Stay tuned, this site will change very soon and I will be back to blogging with new purpose and schedule.


Best Kept Prints Storefront Launched

Today I finally launched my new site as a storefront for my fine art photography prints you can order as well as my new events site for event proofs.

UPDATE: 3/14/13 – this site was worth the quick effort and followup to get it launched. I have earned over 25 times the outlay cost on one print alone.