Light is always in motion, even though you may not always notice its subtle changes. The view from your window will look different every time you glance out, from hazy mornings with a coffee in hand to the lengthening shadows of afternoon. Because of this phenomenon, the same place or object can look and feel vastly different depending on the time of day.
Taking a photograph allows you to press pause and capture the light’s everchanging beauty. By working with the characteristics of natural light, you’ll be able to harness the glimmer, shadows, and glow to create effective compositions, no matter what time of day you shoot.
Why does light change throughout the day?
Here’s the science: the quality of the natural light relates to the amount of water or dust in the atmosphere and how the sun’s rays hit those particles. Consequently, it’s not just the position of the sun (time of day) that affects the light’s quality, but also the seasons (the sun’s angle) and your location on Earth. This means as each day passes, you’re experiencing a unique type of light.
The shifting nature of light has a range of effects on an image. There are no best times to take a photograph. Rather, each time of day brings its own strengths and challenges and the most effective light for you will depend on the style of photography you favor.
Taking a photograph at dawn
Best for: Open landscapes such as seascapes and valleys, as well as flora and fauna
The early morning offers a soft light and peaceful aesthetic. The low angle of the sun means the rays hit at a uniform angle, giving a diffuse, even light. Just after sunrise, the sun’s rays warm the atmosphere causing water in the air to condense. Sunlight reflects and scatters through the droplets in the atmosphere, which creates an ethereal, hazy effect. For landscape photographers, it’s worth getting up early to capture this magical time of day.
Taking a photograph at midday
Best for: Capturing shadows, and playing with contrasts
The sun reaches its zenith at noon and this 90-degree angle causes a harsh, contrasting effect. Some photographers will avoid shooting at this time on a sunny day, as the overhead light causes severe downward shadows and can bleach subtle colors. But it can also create dramatic, dynamic effects when it comes to pattern and texture. Those with a keen eye can use the opposing dark and light elements to compose striking, high contrast images.
As this bright midday light is also the strongest, it’s important to protect your eyes while you’re out shooting. Silhouette’s distinctive Sun Lite collection offers complete protection against harmful UV-A, -B, and -C rays.
Taking a photograph in the evening
Best for: Outdoor portrait photography
Evening light is redder in tone, giving what’s termed a “golden hour” where the light has a deeper, warmer glow. A favorite of portrait photographers and selfie-taking influencers alike, this flattering light gives the subject a golden tone. It’s also the time of day where you’re able to get the most depth to your photographs, with the light creating an almost cinematic effect.
Be aware, it can be dangerous to look directly into the sun through your camera’s viewfinder at any time of the day. As well as your camera and other kit, your vision is your most precious asset as a photographer. Protect your eyes while shooting outdoors with Sihouette’s range of sunglasses, including the timeless Sun Lite frames.