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When is the Best Time of Day for Photography? Or, An Ode to Light

This is a question that comes up a lot with photography, because it is LITERALLY the most important thing. I've mentioned before that as a photographer, I am primarily a student of light. I have a matrix of skills that I use constantly while I work, technical and social, but if the light is garbage, I'm doing myself and my clients a disservice. But the thing about light is that it can be manipulated. It's a subject all on its own, and one that I study constantly. If I am awake, I am pretty much always looking at the light around me. I am looking at how it bounces, how it shifts, how it is filtered through a tree or blocked by a building. I am always asking myself how the light changes the mood of a scene, or how it draws our attention to something.

This brings us to the Holy Grail of light, in the hour before sunset, which is known as Golden Hour. There are more than 8 million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #goldenhour and it's for good reason: the sun is low in the sky, and its light is soft, diffuse and golden (hence the name!). But this isn't really a post about Golden Hour. I really do love the light at the end of the day. It gives me all the photog tingly feels. To return to the blog post question, you might be thinking, Well OBVIOUSLY Golden Hour is the best time of day for photography. To that I will counter...theoretically, and for a specific purpose, sure.

This question usually assumes that we are shooting portraits, and want that dreamy soft lighting. If what you want in a photo is bright and intense colours, Golden Hour doesn't make the cut.

Check out these wicked colours from this pool party shoot. So fun!

Also (and what I really want to highlight with this post) is that if you have kids whose bedtime is literally during Golden Hour, there's no soft and warm lighting that can mask the tears and screams of an overtired child. This isn't to say that families can never do Golden Hour photoshoots, but that I don't believe that it should be valued above all else.

These two cuties were pretty happy in the late morning light:

The best time of day for photos is the time that works best for you!! Not every wedding can be at 6:00pm to get that golden glow. It's not always possible to do an evening family session. So it's my job to make the best light out of any situation. Through the early pandemic months, I was working with a group of other photographers in Midland with #thefrontstepsproject and due to distance protocols and working around people's schedules, I was forced into working with lighting conditions and locations that I might not have chosen. But when we are given a limited set of tools and specific framework, almost counter-intuitively, we are often the most creative. Here are a few examples from that project, but also other shoots over the years that were in the morning or afternoon:

So there's no "right" time to take photos. A part of being a documentary photographer is the ability to work with the light as it is, instead of only working during a certain time of day. I want my clients to have photos that reflect them as they are. If it's during Golden Hour, then great! It's just not something that I value over the real life as lived.

You be you, when you want to be, and I'll be over here capturing the memories for you.

xo ke


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