What is the Best Time of Day for Photography?
Put simply, the best times for photography are those times when the light is the most controlled.
As photographers with good quality gear and technical knowledge, it is entirely possible to work in any type of environment when using all of the pro equipment and knowledge at your disposal. With a high quality camera body (that would make it easier to shoot in lower light scenarios), high quality lenses that capture sufficient color depth, and a variety of on-camera and off-camera flash setups, one could say "anytime is a good time." But, sometimes certain lighting setups are not easy to set up on the fly, and as a result, not always possible to use.
The best times for photography, then, are those that allow us to not worry about the light so much and capture good quality images that look beautiful out-of-camera, and can easily be enhanced in post-processing.
To put it simply: there are two times of day that are ideal for taking photos. Certain conditions might impact this, like changes in weather or excessive cloud cover, but in general these will be the times of day you should aim to schedule your photo sessions around when possible.
When does it happen? For 1 hour after sunrise, and for 1 hour before sunrise
Our favorite time to take photos is during Golden Hour.
Hands down, it is really a magical period of time.
Most people can appreciate a good sunset, but seeing the world and time through the lens of a photographer has given us a new appreciation for this time - because it really does lend itself to helping create beautiful and dynamic photos filled with natural color.
During this timeframe, the sun is close to the horizon, reducing the intensity of direct light. This means you will not have to contend with harsh, bright white sunlight hitting faces during portraits, or blowing out parts of the environment. Technically speaking, this makes it much easier to dial in a good exposure.
In general, the natural color of the images will be much warmer - so many more reds, oranges, and yellow tones available.
The actual length of time of Golden Hour where you live may vary depending on season and actual location, too.
For example, locations farther from the equator experience longer Golden Hours. In Iceland, "The Land of the Midnight Sun," Golden Hour can stretch on for hours during the summer. In Pennsylvania (where we are located), this time period is much closer to an actual 60-minute hour throughout most of the year.
In truth, we wish it could be Golden Hour all of the time :)
When does it happen? Right before sunrise, and immediately after Golden Hour
If you are looking to take photos without as much of the warm tones that come with Golden Hour, fortunately the time immediately following provides this opportunity naturally. Blue Hour often lasts for a much shorter period of time, but provides a similarly ideal light environment (low sun, no harsh light, etc.).
As the name might imply, the name of the game here is the color blue, and the cooler tones that come along with this. Images taken at this time can use this to great effect. We love photos taken at this time because it adds a certain drama and romantic feeling often overlooked during sunset and Golden Hour sessions. The blue tones can really contrast beautifully with your subject(s).
One thing to keep in mind during Blue Hour is that it can be best to try and find areas that are open and have a lot of light available to take best advantage, because the sun light itself is rapidly dwindling. As this hour progresses, it will become natural to have to play with your settings and bump your ISO in order to keep your exposure balanced. Generally, for us anyways, the resulting grain often works well with the drama and feeling that comes from images during this time frame anyways, so it's a non-issue.
Like Golden Hour, different locations on the planet, and times of year, will impact the actual amount of time you have to work with.
We never plan sessions specifically for Blue Hour, but always take advantage of it when we still want to shoot more after the Golden Hour light subsides!
Much of the beauty that comes from photography is being able to experiment and find the time(s) that work best for you to take the pictures you are looking for. As our style of photography is generally on the darker and moodier side of things, Golden Hour and Blue Hour help contribute naturally to this look.
While harsh light may not be something we really love (but can certainly work with), it may, in fact, be beneficial for someone whose photo editing style is much lighter and intentionally overexposed.
Of course, there are also special circumstances that you may want to consider.
For example, if you are looking to try light painting or astrophotography, the best conditions will no doubt be during the night with no lights in sight!
For your average photographer, though, Golden Hour and Blue Hour will probably be your favorite times!!