Ever get in an argument with someone about the best time of day for taking photos? Hands down there IS a best time. A skillful photographer can work around the other times, but why?
You’ve landed on one of 28 posts about photography and how to improve your skills. If you’re a creative, blogger, or photography enthusiast, you’ve landed in the right spot!
When NOT to Go on a Photo Shoot
“Mom, can you take my senior photos for me?” Laura asked.
“Sure, Sweetie,” I said. “Just remember I normally shoot landscape and animals. I can’t guarantee anything spectacular.”
“How about Sunday afternoon?”
“Um,” I hesitated. “What about Sunday morning early or later in the afternoon?”
“Mom.” She rolled the word out like a sentence. “You know I can’t get up early. And I have plans for Sunday afternoon.”
“I’ll try. But the light won’t be very good in the afternoon.” I warned.
It’s ok, I’m sure you’ll do fine.
While pleased at her confidence (most likely misplaced) confidence in my abilities to take her senior photos at the worst time of the day, I seriously doubted my abilities. I’d only had my Canon DSLR for about a year and considered myself a novice.
But my photography teacher’s words rang in my head. “There’s no argument, the best time to take photos is during the golden hours—right around sunrise and right around sunset.”
On Sunday afternoon we headed out for a photoshoot. I did ok when I shot photos of her in deep shade but looking at the photos of her in the bright sunlight, I knew I’d have to spend a lot of time in post-processing to make them look nice. And of course, she liked several of the poses in the bright sunlight.
What Exactly is the Golden Hour?
Photographers call the hour just after sunrise and just before sunset the golden hours. Why? According to Adobe’s website, the natural light during the golden hour has a warmer cast, a softer glow, and allows photographers to take advantage of shadows from the light’s direction. Everything, from pyramids to people, will just look better during the golden hours.
Some locations even look better right AFTER sunset. The Grand Canyon, for example, looks best when you shoot during the golden hour and after the sun goes down. Why? With no direct light washing out the beautiful colors of the canyon walls, your camera will pick them up. You’ll need a lens with a large aperture—often called a ‘fast lens.’
My telephoto lens has a maximum opening of 5.6, which makes it a slower lens. The shutter has to be open a greater length of time to allow enough light in for proper exposure. I also have a 50mm lens with a maximum opening of 1.2, which means the blades of the camera open wider and allow more light in so I can speed up the shutter.
Remember, the slower your shutter speed the more likely you’ll need a tripod in order to take sharp photos.
No Argument, You Have Homework!
No matter what kind of camera you’re using, from a point-and-shoot, to a phone camera, to a DSLR, plan time this weekend for shooting during a golden hour.
Try these different effects.
Backlight your subject. Take a photo with the golden light behind your subject. Notice how it can rim-light your subject (if the background is dark), or create a dramatic effect. If you can, you’ll want to use [Manual] mode so you can choose your f-stop and your speed. Place your subject in different positions and find a look you like.
If you’re shooting with an iPhone, you can force your camera to meter on any area of the photo—which makes it easier to backlight a subject.
Experiment with flares. Flares occur naturally when light reflects off your lens (think of when sun hits a crystal chandelier). Try to shoot a photo with a flare. Place your subject so it blocks most of the sun’s light, but some of the light still hits your camera lens.
Shoot a silhouette. Depending on how far the sun has set or risen, and your subject matter, you can go for a dramatic silhouette. You subject should appear dark but have dramatic light behind it.
Front lighting. Soft golden hour light will allow you to photograph people, especially, without having them squint. Have your subjects face the sun and notice how no harsh shadows show up.
Buildings and natural features also look great when front-lit by the morning glow.
Come Back Tomorrow
Tomorrow I’ll talk about getting trigger happy (in a good way).