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How Time of Day Affects Photography

October 26, 2015 10:45 am

When you learn to see the changes that happen with light, shadow, colors and other elements throughout different times of the day, you gain a better understanding of what makes great photography. To improve and enhance your art, consider heading out at different times and you’ll discover just how dramatically the time of day can affect your images.

Light and shadows

The sun isn’t directly overhead in the early morning, and the light in the sky is diffused and coming from all directions. This diffused light gives your subject matter even lighting and improves the overall exposure of your shots. Later in the day, there’s higher contrast between dark and light areas, but the morning light can enhance the vibrancy and colors of your images. However, if you’re looking for sharper shadows and more available light, shooting later in the day is the way to go. Nature itself changes throughout the day as flowers open up more and human and animal subjects become more abundant and active. All times of day present unique challenges and opportunities, and the only way to understand them is to venture out, even when the light may not seem perfect. Shooting on an overcast or cloudy day creates an interesting balance as you get the activeness of nature in the middle of the day with the diffused lighting of morning or dusk.

sunrise under the Queensboro

Image by Global Jet

Effects on background

The nice, even light on the subject matter in the morning receives a boost from the way it impacts background elements such as trees, buildings and sky. Pay attention to how the light during different times of day affects your background to avoid ruining an image with otherwise perfect composition with a brightly lit building in the background distracting from the overall tone. When shooting later in the day, the background sky has richer blue tones to contrast or amplify your subject matter and foreground, but this can also cause backlighting on your subject that may be more contrast than you want. A solution for this issue can be as simple as shooting from a different angle, choosing a different subject or using the pop-up flash to fill in the light.

Human element

When you shoot in the early morning, there are fewer people around, and this eliminates or reduces the human element in your shots. If that’s what you’re going for then great, but if you want more activity in your image, shooting later in the day when the streets are bustling is a better idea. Later in the day images of your subject matter can have the type of light you prefer, but if your background of busy people detracts from the emotion of the shot, you may need to reconsider your approach.

The only way to know how the time of day affects your images is to get out there and shoot at all different times from early morning to dusk. The time of day has a strong impact on the photographic composition and aesthetic elements and sometimes you can take the perfect shot at the most imperfectly seeming moment of the day. Baboo Digital can help transform all your images into stunning photographic art with our digital printing including Giclee and fine art printing.

Featured image by Mr. TinDC