Best Time Of The Day To Take Photos

Professional photographers swear by the perfect light of the “Golden Hour,” that short period of about an hour right after sunrise and an hour right before sunset when the sun is low in the sky and offers a soft, diffused light.

Golden Hour the ‘Magic Hour’

Photographers love this time of day as it creates a naturally diffuse, pinkish light that is excellent for shooting portraits and weddings with virtually no extra gear required.

The golden hour offers the photographer creative control and provides great lighting for shooting just about anything and everything out-of-doors, from landscapes and city scenes to outdoor portraits and fashion shoots. Also, fewer people are typically out around dawn and dusk, so you can capture your image with fewer background distractions.

Use the lighting to your advantage by keeping these points in mind:

  • Shadows create depth: During the golden hour, the sun is at a lower angle, and the light is traveling through more of the earth’s atmosphere, which results in a softer and less-intense direct lighting. This creates less contrast and makes for a more even exposure. The angle of the light also produces nice shadows and pleasing contrast, adding depth to your images.

  • Timing is everything: Be sure to arrive early enough to set up and be ready to go the moment the light is right. Keep shooting constantly, as the light can change minute-to-minute during this time of day. Be sure to shoot through the full hour to capture the wide range of effects.

  • Natural light for beautiful portraits: The warm light of the golden hour is the most flattering for portrait and fashion photography. The softly diffused light makes skin look soft and allows subjects to look toward the sun without having to squint.

Use this lighting to your advantage. There are five creative lighting elements you can use to create striking images during this enchanting time of day:

  1. Front lighting: Just as the name implies, front lighting involves facing your subject into the sun, so they are bathed in the warm, flattering light.
  2. Backlighting: Backlighting is the opposite of front lighting in that you have your subject pose with their backs to the sun, which will surround them in a soft, warm glow. Consider using a reflector or fill flash to keep your models from looking too dark.
  3. Rim lighting: This is similar to backlighting but shot against a dark background, achieving a soft glow around the edges of your subject.
  4. Flare: Flare occurs when the sun hits your lens directly. Typically, you want to avoid flare, but during the golden hour, sun flare can add visual appeal to your images.
  5. Silhouette: Because the sun is low in the sky, silhouettes are best shot during the golden hour or the blue hour. Position your subject in front of a brightly lit background to achieve this effect.

Planning your shoot

Always plan in advance – the Golden Hour will only occur on days where the sun isn’t covered by clouds. Proper planning can help ensure you’re not stuck shooting in overcast conditions.

You should consider using a weather app to better forecast potentially better days for outdoor photography. The two apps I use the most are WeatherUnderground and Dark Sky. A third weather app that I sometimes use is weather.com. If there are other apps you would recommend, please let me know in the comments.

Over the years, even though I live in Hawaii, I watch the weather every single day. If I would choose one app over the other, Weather Underground/Wunderground would be my recommendation. You can download the apps from the app store for android or Apple.

Blue Hour Photography

What if you can’t shoot at golden hour. Don’t be concerned that your photos are going to be sub-par because you can’t make that golden hour lighting work. There are other options — the Blue Hour in particular is a popular option amongst photographers.

The blue hour is that time of day is right after the sun has set and right before it rises, i.e. dusk and dawn. It doesn’t give your pics that same golden hue but, for some photos, maybe you would prefer a bluer tint in your pics rather than that golden light.

The blue hour is known for helping give photographs a tranquil, peaceful, and relaxing vibe. Blue hour might not share the same popularity that golden hour does but sometimes it pays to step away from the majority and make your pictures stand out.

If you are someone who enjoys shooting cityscapes, Blue Hour is ideally suited for this style of photography.

Photograph During Mid-Day Harsh Sunlight

Many photographers go home after golden hour and don’t go back out shooting until evening golden hour.

But there will be times when you just don’t have the option to time your photographs during the golden hour. In these cases, you need to learn to make the best of the lighting you have, whatever comes your way.

  • Add a diffuser to your equipment bag.

  • Keep your eyes on the sun and position your body accordingly. This is something you should always do even when shooting outdoors, regardless of time of day.

  • Look for open spaces and avoid tall buildings. These are what will give you those harsh shadows that you’re trying to avoid. Taking photos around large bodies of water is also great when you’re specifically seeking out areas without a lot of shadows.

  • Alternatively, stay in the shadows; seek out those dark corners that are mostly in the shade – either go all out with the sun or all out with the shadow; there is no in-between.

  • Embrace the sun. The sun isn’t always bad, and sometimes, when it’s unavoidable, simply make for some beautiful, sun-filled photographs.

  • Consider going black and white. This style of photography is ideal for high contrast photos. And, you get the most contrast in your photos when shooting mid-day.

By Mark Delong


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