The Best Time of Day to Take Photos

May 27, 2019


What is the best time of day to take photos?

The hardest thing about taking photos outside is knowing what time of day has the best light. Lighting can either make or break a good photo. So what’s the best time to go out and shoot? Well, there are several options, but some times are better than others.

Golden Hour

The best time to take photos is, without a doubt, golden hour. This is the hour or two before sunset or after sunrise.

Girl walking on sunny road during golden hour

The sunlight is coming at an angle making it less harsh, and it has a warm golden glow. Golden hour is every photographer’s ideal time to shoot because of the beautiful lighting that can be achieved.

Blue Hour

Another good time to shoot is blue hour. This is the time directly after sunset or before sunrise. Since the sun isn’t shining, photos have cool blue tones. As long as it’s not too dark, this is a great time to get pictures without harsh shadows and light.


You may think that if you take photos in the middle of the day when the sun is highest, you will have the best and the brightest light, right? Wrong. The absolute worst time to take photos is midday. The sun is directly above and is giving off its harshest light causing big bright spots and dark shadows. In this example, you can see that the light hitting my sister is very bright, leaving dark shadows on her face. This photo was taken a little before noon, because sometimes you just can’t help the timing or the location of the picture you want to capture.

Nashville Zoo sign

Every photographer’s least favorite light is right about noon. However, knowing how to handle this kind of light can help you take great photos no matter what time of day it is! It all comes down to where you position yourself and your subject in relation to the sun.

Positioning Your Subject

If you have no choice but to shoot in bright midday light, turn your subject away from the sun as much as possible. This way you can avoid harsh shadows on the face and they won’t be as tempted to squint or shield their eyes. In the picture of my sister above, I should have tried a different angle to avoid the sun hitting her straight on.

In fact, this trick is important even if you are shooting in the best light at golden hour. Putting the sun directly behind your subject will create a silhouette effect: dark subject and light background. However, if you have the sun coming from behind and at an angle, you will have an evenly lit, professional-looking photo with more flattering light.

In the photo below you can see that the sun is behind the subject, but not directly. This photo was taken at golden hour.

golden hour light example

As you can see, taking a picture with this lighting can cause a halo effect around her hair.

This works not only for taking pictures of people but also landscapes. A beautiful landscape photo will have a lot more drama with golden sunlight coming at an angle instead of the flat light and shadow of high noon.

In summary, you can really get great photos any time of day if you know where to position the sun in relation to your subject. As long as the light is coming from behind, it will not be causing unflattering shadows or blinding your subject. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it’s one I try to follow if I can! And remember, golden hour is your best bet when it comes to creating gorgeous images!

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  1. Karla says:

    Great advice!

  2. Nyxie says:

    This is such a good guide, I would never have thought of writing something like this. I know there is better light depending on what time of day it is, but never stopped to think when the best lighting was!

    Thank you 🙂

  3. Jenny says:

    Great tips. Good to know. I always thought that a good time to take pictures was in the bright sunlight. I guess I’m wrong about that:).

    • Mary Marino says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post! I always loving helping people with their photography skills!

  4. Great tips! Having the right lighting makes such a difference in photos!

  5. Mary Marino says:

    It totally does!!

  6. […] If you want to know more about using natural light to get amazing photos, check out this blog post: The Best Time of Day to Take Photos […]

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