BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Carol Reid
 

Why Late in the Day?


Hi,
Reading about a holiday photograohy course I see that they like to take the photographers out early or late in the day because they say "light is better/softer" at that time.
I would have thought that the long shadows cast late or early in the day would be bad for photography.
What is the reason for this?


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3/13/2004 4:28:04 AM

 
Roy Breslawski   Well, Carol, the reasons are many. Casting long shadows can be one of the good reasons. Here are some others.

The color of the light changes throughout the day. It starts very warm (more red) in the morning and progresses toward cool (more blue) midday and and back to warm in the evening. Most people and subjects respond better to a picture with warm tones. Your eyes may not see much difference, except right at sunrise or sunset, but your film or digital sensor can. This is a good reason not to use auto white balance on digital. That will just "correct" out the warm tones early or late in the day.

Midday light is very harsh. It casts strong shadows. For people or animal pictures this will often put a shadow on the face or eyes, which is almost always bad. You can use fill flash, but then you lose any differences in lighting that can be beneficial. Early or late the shadows, while longer, are much softer. There is much less contrast. It adds a much more dramatic effect to landscapes.

That brings us to the last big point. Our vision is capable of handling something in the range of 1,000:1 contrast ratio. In other words we can see two objects at the same time where one is 1,000 times brighter than the other. Film and digital sensors are limited to a range of about 30:1 up to about 100:1 (more or less. Not worth arguing the exact amount, just that the difference is huge). Much less than human visual perception. In midday the contrast ratio can exceed even our human visual capability. No film or digital sensor can come close to capturing it. You end up with either objects in shadows being black, or bright objects being pure white. Lots of information is lost. Early and late in the day the contrast ratios are much lower and closer to what film or digital can record. Even then it will be too much for many scenes, but you will still be able to capture much more information.

I have rambled on for quite a while here. You might want to look into one of the BetterPhoto.com courses to get a better understanding of light. It is the most important subject in photography.


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3/13/2004 6:00:13 AM

 
Carol Reid   Hi Roy,
That was an excellent explanation - I did know about the strength of light at different times of day but had not related that to what cameras can pick up AFA shadows are concerned and colour.
Now, however, I dont what setting to use for WB on my digital camera.
I can *set* it but a brief experiment produced very false colours indoors.
Is this going to be all trial and error?
Thanks again,


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3/14/2004 7:41:15 AM

 
Roy Breslawski   Hi Carol,
Trial and error is one of the benefits of digital. I don't know what digital camera you are using, and as a result do not know what range of color balance settings you have. What I would do is take your camera outdoors at a time of day you would like to shoot and photograph a scene using many different color balance settings. Look at the results and see which ones match what you want to produce. Do that for each type of scene and time of day you like to shoot and make a note of what settings give you the result you desire.


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3/14/2004 9:22:35 AM

 
Roy Breslawski   Hi Carol,
Trial and error is one of the benefits of digital. I don't know what digital camera you are using, and as a result do not know what range of color balance settings you have. What I would do is take your camera outdoors at a time of day you would like to shoot and photograph a scene using many different color balance settings. Look at the results and see which ones match what you want to produce. Do that for each type of scene and time of day you like to shoot and make a note of what settings give you the result you desire.
Roy
www.lighttimephoto.com


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3/14/2004 9:22:42 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Did you use a white balance that was set for natural light with indoor light?


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3/14/2004 10:43:30 PM

 
Carol Reid   I've been checking this feature of my Oly 3040Z.
It seems that I can put in a correction for red and/or blue light.
So if I'm doing a sunset I should over ride the AUTO function and increase the red?
Have I got this right?


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3/15/2004 6:03:47 PM

 
Roy Breslawski   Sounds right, but I haven't used an Olympus digital. Easy enough to go out and shoot the next sunset with different settings.


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3/15/2004 7:18:07 PM

 
Carol Reid   OK Roy,
That's what I'll do the next time I can get a sunset worth shooting :-)
Thanks again
Carol


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3/16/2004 3:16:15 AM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  Being able to add red isn't something that you're supposed to do for sunsets. It's just a feature that some cameras have that can make pictures more saturated with reds, oranges. It'll just make your sunset extra red, and some people like that. Or if shooting in shade, makes it extra warm, which some people like. Same with the adding the blue. It's just adding a little more to the preset wb settings in either way.


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3/16/2004 3:07:31 PM

 
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