The magic hours that will make your photography shine

Light plays an essential role on the quality of your photos and the time of the day you choose to make your pictures can be the element that defines their success. Check below how to make the best use of the daylight during the day to bring your photos to the next level.

Avoid the mid-day sun

Early mornings and late afternoons are considered the best times of the day for outdoor photography. As the sun is lower in the sky, the shadows become longer, and there are more contrast and texture in your photos. The morning light can add a hint of freshness to the scene, occasional dew and mist can completely modify the overall mood of the image. The afternoon light feels warmer and can add texture and intensity to your photos.

Try the magic hours

Morning and afternoon light are ideal for outdoor photography, but there are two periods in the day which can bring your photography to the next level, and you should pay attention to those: the golden hour and the blue hour.

The golden hour is the time right after sunrise or right before sunset when the sun is very low on the horizon.

Drone shot at sunrise in Kota Kinabalu, Gaya Island, Malaysia

In the golden hour, the light is warmer, which tends to enhance the colors of the scene. The contrast is lower so that the details in the longer shadows are more visible and the highlights are less likely to be overexposed.

Also, weather subtleties can dramatically change the way the light behaves during the golden hour. A partly cloudy sky, for example, illuminated by light coming from below it can light up the sky with a soft, warm light.

Helsinki Sunset
Right before sunset in Helsinki, Finland

The blue hour is the period right before sunrise or right after sunset, also known as the twilight period. The sun is no longer visible, but its light is still present, giving the sky a predominantly blue hue.

During this period, artificial lights of streetlights or buildings are usually on, which allows for great urban photography. There is still enough light in the sky to illuminate details in the darker parts of your scene, avoiding dark areas which would result from shooting at night time.

Drone shot of Casa Branca, a small town in Brazil, right after the sunset

Plan your shooting

Use this knowledge to plan your itineraries. If you buy tickets in advance to visit a tall observation deck, choose it next to the golden hour and sunset to make your photos shine. I did the same for my visit to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and managed to experience stunning views of the city during sunset (the ticket prices are actually higher around the sunset time!). Or if you plan to fly your drone on a paradise beach somewhere, make an effort to wake up before sunrise, and you’ll be rewarded with fantastic light that will raise the quality level of your pictures.

I wrote a recent post about some great apps and sites to help you check when the blue and golden hours are in any location in the world, which makes planning a breeze.

Of course, it all goes to waste if the sky is overcast. So fingers crossed for good weather and happy shooting!

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