5 Reasons Dog Photography in the Middle of the Day Sucks

The middle of the day is when the sun hits the highest point in its arc as it travels across the sky. (Yeah yeah, the Earth rotates, the sun stays still, yadda yadda!). At the hightest point, the most light is available to grow plants, bake landscapes and mess up photographs. 

Did you know that the middle of the day isn’t always noon?

It’s true! Head to Date & Time and type in your city (or a big city in your region). If you scroll to the current date and click on it, you’ll see a curved graph that illustrates when the sun rises, hits the middle of the day and when it sets. (This is a great tool for photographers for planning around golden hour & sunset!)

March 15th in Minneapolis has a middle of they day landing at 1:21 pm. 


5 reasons why dog photography during the middle of the day sucks:

    Trees, leashes, the photographer’s shadow, all arrive dark and hard edged to cross the dog in your scene. Why are these shadows so dramatic? Because the sun is a teenie tiny light source a long ways away, which means the light it casts in the middle of the day is hard light. (The smaller the light source the harder the light & shadows, the bigger the light source the softer the light & shadows!)

    Contrast is the range of brightness in an image. Middle of the day images tend to be VERY strong in contrast with hard shadows and overly bright whites. This means you can have super bright whites and very dark darks all together in one image. So much contrast!

    The lightest parts of your image now have gained a TON of light due to the sun being overhead. This means highlights may tend to be blown out (no details left, pure white) and light dogs are prone to looking like dogs without details. 

    People aren’t the only ones prone to squinty eyes! Facing a dog into the sun (sun at your back) can make your dog squint too!

    The middle of the day is the hottest time of the day, especially during the summer! Not comfortable for people or dogs to be active in, especially dogs with double coats and squashed faces. 

Here are some examples featuring dogs from Tri County Humane Society. Every Tuesday at 11 am I swing by and photograph the adoptable dogs and cats. The dogs and I traipse outside, no matter the weather (exception is brutal cold). Which means we land smack in the start of the middle of the day. 

All of the image are unedited to give you a solid representation of why photographing dogs in the middle of the day sucks! (They get leashes edited out before they are sent to Tri County Humane Society to use on their website!)

This is LB! He’s currently available for adoption with Tri County Humane Society!

OOOOF! It was sunny on Tuesday! Note the hard shadows coming off his feet & legs and the shadowing on the side of his face (indicating where the sun was). The shadow by his eye closest to the light is from his eye socket! LB is a light tan dog which meant the brightness of the light gave him an extra light coloring and some overly bright highlights. 

Another of LB! That blob in the lower right hand corner? That’s my shadow! He’s facing the sun more, which means he has less shadowing on his face, though the cheekbone shadow is quite strong. Check out that leash shadow! When it comes to editing out leashes, make sure to look for the shadow from leash as well! Or you could end up with a strong black line across a leg or foot (like above)! 

Scrappy! A lovely dark brownish black dog. The sun was at his side, which meant the side of his face opposite was VERY dark in shadow. The hard edges of the shadow are harder to see in the grass, but you can see by their darkness how much contrast was in the light that morning. The highlights and white are quite bright – note the leash clasp, white on his chest and birch trees in the background. Overall the image has a contrasty, crunchy look that isn’t dreamy or really pleasing. 

Another of Scrappy! Again the light is coming from the side of Scrappy, which means the opposite side of his face and body is enrobed in shadows. Note the brightness on his face where the light is hitting making his dark brown black color overly bright. And the rather bright spot on his tongue too! The brights and darks in the grass give if a fussy, messy look. 

What can you do when that’s the time you have to photograph adoptable dogs? 

Now there are some ways you can get middle of the day lighting to work for you!

  • Backlight
    Position yourself facing into the light, with the light at the back of the dog. No squinty eyes and you’ll get some lovely light that tickles whiskers and hairs. The biggest downfall – dark dog faces. Since the light is behind the dog, there isn’t much light that will fall upon the dog’s face. You can play with it a bit in post processing or use a reflector or pop of fill flash to help balance your image. 

  • Open shade
    This shade is found at the edge of shadows with your dog facing out of the shadow towards the light. The shaded background will behind your dog and the light from the edge of the shadow will bounce and illuminate your dog. The easiest way to see this in action is to use your garage. Open the garage door and position your dog right where the shadow meets the light. Observe. Rotate your dog to face into the garage (note the super bright background). Then lead your dog into the garage and watch how the light dims and grows the closer to edge of shadow you move. 

  • Embrace it!
    Position your dog facing the light and photograph away. There may be some squinty eyes, some high contrast and blown out hightlights, but you potentially can have lovely blue skies and true colors on your pup. Or head to an area of interesting shadows and place your dog within them to capture the artistic side of middle of the day shooting. 

Not sure if you’re in middle of the day light? Check for hard shadows! Deep dark shadows with crisp edges is typically an indicator that an image was captured sometime during the middle of the day.

We’ve made it through the 5 reasons dog photography in the middle of the day sucks, with examples, and ways you can work with middle of the day light with deep shadows, bright whites and high contrast!

4 thoughts on “5 Reasons Dog Photography in the Middle of the Day Sucks”

  1. Great blog to educate your clients that shooting in the middle of the day isn’t the best! Pups are adorable, I hope they get adopted soon.

  2. I love the image examples! Sunrise and sunset are so much easier to work in- not to mention midday can be so harsh on pups’ paws!

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