The Best Times of Day for Photography

The best time, is now.

In Jon J. Muth’s book “ The three questions” one of the questions is “ when is the best time to do things?”

Light is one of the most impacting factors in photography. I am always exploring lighting conditions when working. By shooting during different times of day, I have come to understand much better how this one detail can really impact my work.

Photos that catch our eye draw us in largely because of the light we see. Textures, contrast, and depth are developed in the image by the angle at which the light is hitting the points of interest. In my case, usually this means people. Also, the coolness or warmth of the light influences the composition of the whole photograph. So understanding the complexities of white balance can really help. In a portrait, mood can be portrayed subtly or dramatically by the shadows and contrast the light creates.



Some photographers including myself struggle with midday sun and avoid it all together. You will find lots of information telling you the “best time” for light is early morning or sunset. I am not going to deny it. That beautiful soft light lends to some fantastic dreamy images. Mid-day can really be challenging because the harsh light can make for some unwanted shadows, and squinty eyes from your subjects. However, knowing your camera and which gear will help you, can result in fantastic dramatic images, and you’ll never know until you try! Sometimes the shadows can really make the image interesting. This is where the “best time is now” reference comes in. I firmly believe the best time to take photos is NOW! Sometimes midday just works best for the client that has hired me, and I go with it. Sometimes it is best for my schedule. In order to maximize the intense effects of this time of day remember these tips:

  • Your reflector comes in handy to minimize or direct shadows, or using a simple white sheet in front of the light source;
  • Use a lens hood;
  • Fill flash can also help to eliminate unwanted shadows but takes some practice before the shoot to know how to control your flash. I try to minimize using flash at all if I can. In my experience, natural light tends to be more flattering;
  • Keep your ISO low;
  • Know your white balance. Nothing worse than having to adjust hundreds of bluish cast images;
  • Experiment with Bracketing. I still need lots of practice with this! It can be tricky because you don’t want to be setting these, and missing the shot;
  • Lastly, the shade is your friend. Try the dramatic sun, and then retreat for a few shots under cover. Don’t forget to adjust your camera setting again for the different light in the shade.

Not many people want to meet me for portraits at sunrise, and in Edmonton I don’t blame them, sometimes the summer and fall mornings can be just as cold as the winter. Likewise for sunset shoots the timing isn’t ideal for little kids who can’t stay up until the sun sets at 10 in the summer months. Seize the opportunity to practice and have fun experimenting with different times of day, and light conditions. Your images will be varied and interesting.

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