When it comes to taking outdoor photographs, there is so much to consider. You will need the right lighting, the right weather, and so much more, as these factors can impact how the shots turn out.
Taking photographs outdoors can be difficult. If you are struggling to get the shot you want, you will need to know when the best time to take photos outside is.
Some weather conditions are better than others, and some times of the day make for better images than others.
So, if you want to take your photography skills to the next level, then check out this guide of the best and worst times of the day to take pictures outside (see also “The Best Time Of Day For Desert Photography“)!
What Is The Best Time To Shoot Outside?
Taking photographs outside can be a wonderful experience. You can make use of the natural lighting, and the colors of the sun and sky to illuminate your photographs.
The lighting conditions will change throughout the day, and so you will need to know how to manipulate light and how to plan ahead to get the best images.
The best time to shoot outdoors depends on what kinds of photographs you want to take. So, we have some of our favorite times of the day to shoot here for you.
Golden Hour is one of photographers’ most favored times to shoot. This is the hour just before the sun sets, or before the sun rises, which casts a beautiful glow around the subject and the landscape you want to photograph.
During Golden Hour, the sun is hanging low on the horizon, and is filtered with warm light such as reds, oranges and yellows.
You will find that your images are the most colorful at this time, and the lighting is the most flattering, as it is not too harsh or bright, but still illuminating.
As the sun dips lower towards the horizon, you will find that your objects and subject matter will be doused in red and gold glows. Golden Hour will occur around 40-50 minutes before the sun sets or rises.
At sunset, light will get warmer, and deeper shadows may appear, which can add texture and interest to your images. As the run rises, the light will get brighter and cooler.
The Magic Hour
The Magic Hour is pretty much the same as Golden Hour, but it occurs just after the sun rises or sets. It is the short period of time after the sun rises and after it finally sets and falls below the horizon.
This time also provides golden, warm, reddish or pinkish light that can make a stunning hue for your outdoor images.
Magic Hour after sunrise will occur in the first hour of sunlight. To shoot at this time, you will need to plan ahead, and be prepared for when the sun comes up. You may also want to alter your white balance to suit the hues that you see.
Twilight is another popular choice for photographers. This is around an hour after the sun has set, and when the sky starts to become blue in hue and darker.
There will still be some natural light, but much deeper shadows, and not as much light as there would be during a sunset. For twilight photography, you may need to use longer exposures to capture the blur of the clouds or the night sky.
At Twilight, you will have a softer glow to your images, and you may need to use a flash or artificial light in order to properly illuminate your subject.
When Is The Worst Time Of Day To Shoot Outside?
Midday Light Or High Noon
Most photographers prefer to shoot at the beginning of the day, or during the end of the day (see also “Techniques For Photographing Wildlife At Different Times Of Day“). This can provide the most flattering light. In comparison, midday light can be harsh, unflattering, colorless and difficult to work with.
You may find that you have lens glare and the sun is too strong to provide softer glows or illumination on your subject. If you are taking pictures outside of people, then you will need to avoid high noon on a sunny day.
This is when the sun is at its strongest, and direct sunlight can cast unsightly shadows which can ruin your portraits.
Direct overhead sunlight can be hard to work with any subject, as it will shine down and cast shadows onto your subject matter, but it will also cause colors to bleed and make your images appear flat or blown out and overexposed.
A Few Hours After Sunrise
Let’s say the sun rises in your location at around 6am, by 9 or 10 am, it could be too high in the sky, that it could create harsh shadows on your subject matter.
You will struggle to take good photographs at this time (see also “Best Time To Photograph Mount Rushmore“), so it is better to wait until around 3pm onwards to shoot outdoors.
What Is The Best Weather To Take Pictures Outside?
Many photographers prefer to shoot on overcast days, despite sunny days being very beautiful. Overcast days can provide colorless, softer light that is perfect for nature or outdoor photography.
For instance, if shooting rivers, forests or waterfalls, then an overcast day can be much easier to work with, particularly if you are using long exposures to capture the motion of the water.
Overcast light can also reduce the risk of intense glare and hot spots on your camera lens.
When it is overcast, it is much easier to stick to the same settings on your camera, without having to adjust them all of the time due to the light changes or positioning of the sun.
Slightly Sunny Days
As mentioned above, lots of sunlight can cause harsh shadows when shooting outdoors. So, if the day is not too bright and sunny, but there is a little sunlight, you can take some fantastic photographs that can be very flattering, and well illuminated.
To summarize, it is hard to say definitively when the best time of day is to shoot outdoors, as it depends on the images you want to create and your artistic vision.
However, most photographers prefer to shoot at sunrise and sunset, or just after, and will avoid shooting outdoors at high noon as the sun will be too bright and unflattering.