If you’ve ever taken pictures during the day, you would know that the high overhead sunlight is probably the worst light ever for photography. It creates harsh lights, dark shadows and blown out highlights which causes you to lose detail in those shadows and highlights. It even can make your pictures seem dull and uninteresting. So how do you make it better?
For decades, photographers have been working to make the best possible pictures of architecture, landscapes, and portraits during the magic hour or golden hour. This is the time which falls during the first hour after sunrise and the last hour before sunset. This is the time that the sun is not high in the sky, piercing the atmosphere with all of its blue color wavelengths and being harsh while blowing out all of your highlights. This is the time that the sun is kissing the horizon, scattering all the blue color and allowing all the warm glowing reds and oranges to shine through.
To a landscape photographer, this is their time to get out there and capture the best light around. They plan their shot in advance by scoping out what they would like to shoot, check the weather to make sure there is limited cloud cover, and even make sure what time the sunrise will happen that day. To get the shot, you have to be on location before the sun rises so you are not spending precious time setting up your tripod, adjusting camera settings, or making last minute adjustments to your location.
For portraits and images of architecture, either the sunrise or sunset golden hours will work. It all depends on which type of light you would like to use for your subjects. The warm glow of the sun works wonders for portraits because you don’t get the unflattering bad lighting on the faces and can even create some perfect rim light on your subject’s hair. When shooting different types of architecture, the soft light of the golden hour can create interesting effects on the buildings which creates drama.
Always remember, you don’t want just a snapshot, you want a picture that can tell a story, or convey an emotion when someone views it. You want the wow factor and it’s all about the light.
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