When is it the best time to shoot photography?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by RobinsNest, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. RobinsNest macrumors newbie

    Jul 9, 2009
    My Nest in St. Cloud
    I hear that there are specific time frames to getting a good photo. What I have heard is right around sunrise and right around sunset. Is there any truth to this? I am fairly new to photography, although I do not have an SLR. I have purchased the Canon Powershot SX10 IS. I wanted something of an upgrade from the point and shoot, but not cumbersome of having alot of lenses. Although I'm sure the quality will go down some from not being a SLR, but I guess that is the trade off. Thanks for the response.
  2. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    To really say that you want golden light for all photography shows your complete lack of understanding.
    Photography covers a wide range of subjects that may or may not benefit from great natural light. If you can mimic that natural light in a studio then every minute of the day is a good time for photography.

    When is it the best time to shoot "photography"?
    Every time once you understand how light affects your subjects and you adjust accordingly.

    Your question should be ...
    When is it best to shoot portraits outside?
    When is it best to take pictures of buildings?
    When should I take macro shots?
    When should I ...

    You get my point?
  3. toxic macrumors 68000

    Nov 9, 2008
    there is really no "good" light. it depends solely on how you want the photo to turn out - different lighting conditions will give different impressions of the same scene.

    generally speaking, the worst time is around mid-day, since there's way too much dynamic range for any camera (film or otherwise) to handle...unless you specifically want that high-contrast look. i prefer within 4 hours of sunrise or sunset.
  4. a350 macrumors regular

    Jul 8, 2009
    Good question. There are some famous photographers that will only shoot during the golden hour, and some not so famous.

    For a beginner it's a great time to be out shooting.
    I am going to assume that you do mean outdoor photography and am not going to belittle you just because you did not state it, it was almost a given.
  5. wilsonlaidlaw macrumors 6502


    Oct 29, 2008

    Your reply could be interpreted as just a tad patronizing. As a professional photographer who also teaches photography, I think the OP's question is perfectly reasonable. We devote a part of our courses discussing this exact aspect.

    No you can't reproduce all the effects of low angle lighting in Photoshop and trying to get "dawn" shots in a studio is pretty difficult as well, which is why we use location shots. You can reproduce the colours certainly but what you can't do accurately is reproduce the highlighting effect of the shadows produced by sunlight falling on objects at a more acute angle. This is apart from the problem with coping with the dynamic range of light to dark at midday, mentioned by another poster, which can often cover 14 to 15 EV against the average 9 to 12 EV dynamic range of digital cameras depending on the ability of the sensor, whether you are taking in RAW or JPEG and the number and character of the the bits of the RAW image (linear or logarithmic).

    The eye/brain works very differently from a camera and fills in detail from experience plus expectation and of course is in 3D. A photograph reproduces this aspect to a large extent by shadow and highlight. To illustrate this just think of a child's drawing of an apple against an artist's. The artist's will usually incorporate shadow and highlights, which is why it looks more realistic to our brains. Photographs taken in the tropics at midday look very flat and unnatural, as our brains are not presented with the optical clues to learn more about the object, as the shadows are pooled round the base of the object. The golden hours are not called that for nothing and are as relevant today for digital as at the dawn (sorry!) of photography.

    Now studio is quite different. Often we want little to no shadow, especially when taking full face shots. Then you would use all sorts of soft angled lighting and maybe a ring flash as well but I don't think that is what the OP was thinking of.

  6. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Sorry, but I'm going to have to agree with Jessica on this one.

    What you said is fine, but not for every type of shot, which was her point.

    If you want to shoot macros, you'd be better off shooting it in the shade and with a flash. Otherwise, you'd risk getting too many highlights, especially with a different amount of reflection off different leaves. There's probably no good time for shade. Or perhaps you'd just pick an overcast day.

    What would be the benefit of shooting in the morning, or evening, or afternoon if I wouldn't necessarily get the conditions that I want at any of those times? :confused: It's more about the ideal situation in which to shoot, and less about the time of day. Sunrise and sunset is great for some portraits due to the longer shadows you're bound to get. However, it would be irrelevant for some types of portraits as well.

    For a certain type of shot, sunrise and sunset works great, but it depends on what you're after.
  7. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Big subject! You're looking for an answer on an internet forum... when, in truth, the information you want has filled up countless books.

    'Quantity' of light does not equate to 'quality' of light, so you can shoot at any time of the day (and much of the night as well). For lighting that gives 'modelling', relief and a 3-D look to landscape features, then, yes, try to shoot early and late in the day.

    Read books, go on websites (like Luminous Landscape...) and practise with your camera. Relate how you see a landscape with your eyes to how it is recorded on digital media; this is the start of a long learning curve about light...
  8. NintendoChick macrumors regular

    Jun 30, 2008
    You know when you're starting to get it when you start jumping up and down and yelling excitedly about "gorgeous tones and shadows" to a very confused little brother standing next to you...


    Generally, I find my favorite light for soft portraits in the late afternoon. :D
  9. Pikemann Urge macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2007
    For the record, there is such a thing as crap/bad light, but it is relative to your application.

    And the best way to learn this stuff involves many avenues, some you have to take (getting out there and actually taking photos), some you don't but can be fun anyway (taking a course). By all means post to forums such as these. The worst that can happen is that nobody replies. :p
  10. davegregory macrumors regular

    Jul 7, 2009
    Burlington, Ontario
    Oh Robin, you've gone and openned that can of worms haven't you? Haha. There are so many answers to your questions and I'm sure you'll see most of them posted here. Given your situation though, using a point and shoot, and probably you'll be using it mostly in P, or Auto or one of the creative modes (I could be wrong, feel free to correct me if i am), I'd say what you heard is definitely correct. The first few hours of the day and the last few before twilight are usually best. But other people are correct too when they say it depends on what your subject is. I would never say "don't take a photo at mid day", that's just silly, no one would ever take pictures if that were true. But there is a HUGE amount of contrast between light and dark in the mid day hours. Your camera simply can't cope with that much contrast. If your subject were a person in a field for instance, with no shade, the sun shining in on their face from above, you would get a picture of a white sky, and a subject with huge black shadows under their eyes and nose. Not very flattering, right? You could try to fill it in with flash, but your on-camera flash probably won't get the job done. So, yeah, this is a bad time of day to take that shot. It can be done, but you would need other equipment, which I'm sure isn't something you want. Now, if it were the same time of day and you were next to a building with a grey wall or a window that was reflecting light back at your subject, the picture would not have as much contrast in it and you'll be able to get that nice even exposure. But if you're looking for anything with texture (walls, rocks, rust, etc) morning and evening are probably your best times. Not that you can't do it otherwise, but with your equipment being you and a camera, it's just easier.

    However, if it means the difference between getting a picture and not getting a picture, just take the picture and worry about it later. Like kids playing, or a pet or something. Those things happen quickly and obviously you can't always have the forethought of finding a shady place, or somewhere with even light. You can always try changing the picture to black and white as well afterwards. I find it can usually give the picture a new dimension since the mid day sun has probably washed the colour out of the photo anyway. Do an exercise. Find an interesting subject, take a picture of it in the morning (an hour or two after sunrise), take another picture in the afternoon (maybe 12-2) and then another around 7pm or 8pm. Look at the photos, and understand what the light has done in that photo to the subject. I can sit here all day and tell you about light, but unless you see what happens yourself and understand why it does what it does when it does, it won't make sense. Have fun with it, just keep practicing.
  11. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    Wilson, your response could also be interpreted as just a tad patronizing. Instead of seeking to understand what I was referring to or looking outside the teacher box you devoted some time explaining your stance ensuring you let me have it.

    In no way was I intending to patronize the OP, it is very clear when I do this and I wear those colors proudly. In the case of my response to the OP's question I was simply stating as easily as possible that the question is broad. It's similar to asking me how much auto insurance will cost without even telling me a bit about your car/location/driving record/household members etc. Do you see how impossible it is to really just give an answer such as 1 pm?

    You should know, as a teacher of photography, that there is no cookie cutter answer to questions like these. You should also know that what you said is not specific to every shot you could possibly take. As a teacher and a professional you should know better.

    On the off chance that my response was in fact perceived as patronizing I do sincerely apologize because again, if that were the intent you would get neither an apology or a response out of me. I typically fire and sit back and watch the show. In this case I was expressing my sincere inability to provide the OP with what he/she perhaps thought was a single worded answer that would somehow be a magic number.

    With respect to knowing what the OP was thinking, I believe that neither of us possess the credentials to really know. However, my perception was the hope (as stated) for an easy answer to a rather difficult question. This question is so much deeper than "what time" it will inevitably touch on lighting, a subject that many photographers, students, teachers and professionals often miss the mark on.
  12. steviem macrumors 68020


    May 26, 2006
    New York, Baby!
    9th March, 18:32, 27 seconds.

    That is exactly the best time to take a photo ;)
  13. Pikemann Urge macrumors 6502

    Jan 3, 2007
    I had a quick look at your Flickr page and I really dig those pics of Emma. Top notch. Some professionals would be too-careful and over-process the result and not get that naturalness that you got.
  14. canonguy macrumors member

    Jun 13, 2009
    It sound like you are talking about "the Golden Hour" or "the Magic Hour". This is about an hour before "sunset". This is a time when the sky will be the same or a similar exposure to indoor incandescent lights. This is only really important if you are shooting a sunset AND a house/building. The sky will be right and you will be able to see into the windows of the building. Great effect but limited in its usefulness. The color of the sunset/sunrise will (generally) intensify the closer the sun is to the horizon...as it shines through more of the atmosphere (more smog=more color).

    If you do not have a tripod... buy one and use it. I know your sx110 has manual setting and I would urge you to use them rather than auto settings. if you are unsure about how to set the camera...just try different things.

    The best time to take a picture is right now.
  15. jbernie macrumors 6502a


    Nov 25, 2005
    Denver, CO
    The best time to take the shot is when the event is actually happening. Unless you have the ability to control the time the event will occur (a planned model shoot) you just have to go with what is presented to you.

    Sometimes too much emphasis is placed on getting a perfect photo... or doing lots of post production to make it even more perfect when in fact what you are doing in many cases is capturing a moment in time, and at the end of the day the moment as presented by the final product is not in anyway an accurate representation of what occured.
  16. AlaskaMoose macrumors 65816

    Apr 26, 2008
    Instead of arguing about it, I will tell you what kind of lighting works the best for me and my landscapes (which take perhaps 80% of my time taking photos). I do so during the day, and by far the golden light hours have yielded the nicest-looking landscape photos. The very steep angle of the evening and morning golden light illuminating the subject, away from the camera instead of toward the camera, allows me to have a lot of keepers.
  17. LJR macrumors newbie

    Dec 15, 2007
    Thatcham, UK
    When the subject you want to photograph is present and in a light that's conducive to creating the image you have formed in your mind.

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