The Perfect Time To Take A Photograph

It happens four times a day

This is part one of five in a new super-short series called ‘How To Take Better Photographs.’ Sixteen years and nearly one million photographs later, I’ll be sharing these five essential steps to taking better photographs, regardless of your camera.

My sister during golden hour (Photo by me)

Believe it or not, there is a right time and a wrong time to take photographs and it has everything to do with the light.

There are four ideal times of day to shoot, two at each bookend of the day.

The first great block of light is each morning for an hour before the sun rises. This time is called “blue hour.” The world is awash in shades of blue and purple as if to prepare the sky for its daily showcase of that beautiful color.

Nantucket harbor during blue hour (left) and golden hour (right) | (Photos by me)

Now, directly following sunrise, for one hour, we transition into our first “golden hour” or “magic hour” of the day.

At the end of the day, these roles are reversed—the hour before sunset is golden hour and the hour after sunset is blue hour.

But what’s so special about these specific times?

The reason why these four slots are ideal is that the sunlight light is traveling through more atmospheric gases to reach you and it gets diffused along the way. This creates a much softer, smoother, calmer light than during the rest of the day when the light is beating down from straight above.

Here’s a quick comparison between a photo taken during golden hour and a photo taken during peak sunlight.

Golden hour (left) and midday (right) | (Photos by me)

It’s a simple step, but one that I’ve found surprises those who ask me for photography advice.

Light is the foundation of this beautiful medium and it is essential to understand how it plays in mysterious ways before one can hope to start taking better photos.

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Stay tuned for part two of How To Take Better Photographs when I talk about how to master your tool.