How to take great photos at any time of the day

You don’t just want to take pictures, you want to know how to take great photos at any time of the day, no matter what or who you’re shooting. Taking good photos is a professional photographer’s obligation, and taking pictures without light is impossible after all:

It soon becomes totally necessary to know how light works, and this is an essential knowledge for any photographer. I’m never going to get tired of saying this, no matter if it’s film photography or digital photography. The light will always be present in the theme. 

And when we talk about light we always have at least two “schools” of photography. The natural light photographers and the rest of the photographers. There’s always going to be that guy who says he only shoots in natural light because it’s better, bs.

I believe a good photographer has to do a good job in any lighting situation in which he is going to take pictures. And as I always try to make everyone’s life easier, including mine, today I will give some tips on how to take good photos for Instagram, for Facebook, for anyplace and anytime, after all good photo is good photo. And no, I don’t hate natural light shooters. I just think that there’s nothing better for photography than good light, no matter where it came from.

How to take great photos at any time of the day

One of the first things we should take care of is programming when we’re going to take pictures. And this becomes much more evident when we talk about natural lighting. And to understand this we have things that we always have to keep in mind. Time of the day, amount of lighting and colors are the main ones and they will help you to always take good outdoor photos.The first situation we’re going to talk about is obviously the Golden Hour. That’s definitely the most sought period by everyone to take great pictures, and for a lot of good reasons.

Golden Hour

Magic Time - How to take great photos at any time of the day

The Golden Hour takes place during the morning and also afternoon. Usually about 45 minutes after sunrise and also 45 min before the sun goes down. It is a very beautiful type of natural lighting, and you will definitely want to take many pictures during this time of day. One of the facts that make golden hour so cool to me, is that light comes almost from the horizontal. This makes your lighting not so obvious and allows you to take different pictures.

The fact that during this time of the day light has to travel through a larger part of our atmosphere we will have also a good soft light, not to much harsh shadows. 

Another big factor is the color of light, the golden hour is full of warm and vivid colors. All this brings a very happy character to the photo, as if everything was magic, and it is no wonder that many photographers call the golden hour also magic time.  

Although it is great for shooting at this time, you will have to take certain precautions, such as with shutter speed. Not always in the golden hour you will have a lot of light available, so you will have to work with the shutter speed to compensate for this. Of course, you can use the ISO or aperture as long as these do not harm your intent with the photo. Having a good tripod or knowing how to wield the camera well can be of great help here. 

Elaborate your photos using reflections, light leaks and shadows because during the magic hour all these details will bring more context to your images.

How to take good pictures with the sun on pin – Midday light

At this time of day, the light is very direct and is tilted directly downwards. This means there is little chance of light spreading through the atmosphere, leaving a harsh and reasonably neutral white light.

Half day - How to take great photos at any time of the day

For many it is impossible to photograph during these times of the day, and it is not for less, it is quite difficult even. But hard doesn’t mean impossible. There will be a situation where you can take great pictures during noon. 

When you need enough contrast, you can choose to take pictures during this period. Or when you need to reduce reflections on some surface, this type of light can be quite useful. Depending on the scenery you are shooting, it will also be an advantage to use the midday sun. As the light in this period is not so colourful you will have much fewer problems with your white balance and consequently with the colours of the scene.

Half day

You can also take advantage of some shadow area or some object that partially obstructs the light to be able to “break” your high contrast a little to make your photos with more uniform lighting. Awnings and marquees will do this role well.  

Of course, taking great photos during midday presents its challenges but nothing impossible for those who are not afraid to take a chance.

Photos in the morning and afternoon

Photos that are taken outdoors and are neither in the Golden Hour nor at noon are probably taken between these two periods. These periods of the day are great for taking pictures because they have a very beautiful light with warmer colors. The contrast level is not as high as at noon, but it is also not low. The most interesting of this period are how the shadows will work on your photos. For a few hours of the day the sun will focus its light in a more lateral way. And so you can use this in your favor to create images where shadows are more active role in the photo.

Side light and shadows can be very useful for making objects more three-dimensional, as well as producing strong and interesting portraits. However, as the light is not as neutral as noon nor as hot as in the magic hour, you are in risk of photos that seem a bit boring and common.

Shadows - How to take great photos at any time of the day

Perhaps here lives the most feared period of the day for  many photographers. How to take pictures in low light?

It’s one of the questions I always hear from anyone who’s trying to learn photography. And the answers are as varied as possible. They range from buying a cameras with giant ISO capability to never leaving home after 6:30 pm.  

And taking pictures at night and something really cool, depending on what you’re shooting, of course. At this time of day the lighting is dim, we have many cold colors, we run the risk of being robbed or bitten by some animal. But most of the time it’s well worth it.

Here I will give the best tip to take good pictures at night:

Long exposure and tripod

When you are shooting at night this two items will help you a lot in everything you are doing and depend on natural light. So you don’t wait and buy a tripod right away. Night photos of nature will rely heavily on the light of the moon or the clarity of the night itself. And if you use a shutter speed that helps in your exposure you won’t need a giant ISO setting.

Night photos

Of course you can include some lighting in your photos, such as flashes, lamps, flashlights or any other light source. Do not forget that shooting the night in the city is totally possible because many places have a huge amount of light even at night. You just need to choose the location that best fits the context and fire.

Night Cityscape

Shadows and cloudy days

You want an easy mission? Choose a day with more clouds to take pictures. All the cloud that blocked the sunlight acted like a giant softbox. This will make your photo have a much smoother lighting and that both colours and textures become more controlled. 

The same happens when you take your subject into a shadow, taking him/her out of the direct sun you get an effect similar to that of a softbox. 

You can also choose to go out on cloudy and even rainy days to make your photos. After all the darkest weather days cannot be missed. On days with these features, you will have at your disposal very different and interesting textures and colours to work with.

Photos on cloudy days

What to do to take good pictures

As you can see there is no excuse for not taking great pictures at any time of the day. All moments of the day present their peculiarities and specific ways of working. It’s up to you to choose and plan before you shoot. Choosing the time of day according to the project you will shoot is super important and will help you define the whole context of the work.

Now it’s up to you just to put into practice these tips on how to take good pictures and start putting your gems there on Instagram.

That’s it for today. Don’t forget to like and share this post!

Written by Rix Mascarenhas

Rix Mascarenhas is a photographer, videographer, and drone pilot at

Art lover, always involved with crafts, design, painting etc... As a photographer, I enjoy taking pictures and creating stories that have meaning and help people to thrive. My work is guided by the stories behind each scene that really represent the moment.

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