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  • Writer's picture Tony Brown Photography

How the Time of Day Can Affect the Mood of Your Outdoor Photography

Light has an extraordinary power to create emotions in a photo, and it can be used to create whatever mood you desire.

When you learn to see the changes that happen with light, shadow, colours and other elements throughout the 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 of the day, and you’ll discover just how dramatically the time can affect your work.

If you’re looking for a way to enhance your photography, get better shots, or just try something new, getting up early in the morning, and shooting at that time of the day can have a dramatic impact on your pictures.

Light and shadows

In the early morning, the sun isn't directly overhead, and the light in the sky is diffused. This distributed light is coming from all directions, and gives your subject matter even lighting, while improving the overall exposure of your shots. When working later in the day, there’s a higher contrast between dark and light areas, but the morning light can enhance the vibrancy and colours of your photography.

However, if you’re looking for sharper shadows and more light, shooting later in the day is when you should head out. Nature itself changes throughout the day as flowers open up more, and animal subjects become more abundant and active. All times of the day present unique challenges and opportunities, and the only way to truly 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.

Background Effect

Pay attention to how the light during different times of the day affects your background. For example, an otherwise perfect composition, with a brightly lit building in the background, can distract from the overall tone. When shooting later in the day, the background sky has richer blue tones that contrast or amplify your subject and foreground. But this can also cause backlighting on your subject, which may deliver more contrast than you require. 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.

People Traffic

When you shoot early in the morning, there are fewer people around, and this eliminates or reduces the human element in your shots. If that’s what you’re looking for, then great. But if you want more activity in your image, shoot later in the day when the streets are bustling. Shooting later in the day can offer the type of light you require, but if your background of busy people detracts from the emotion of the shot, you may need to reconsider your approach.


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