Sunsphere at dusk. Copyright by Gene Forrest
Photography is not just for weekends anymore. Now that daylight is lingering until 9:00 p.m., there’s still plenty of time to photograph after dinner. Grabbing a sunset can be a leisurely affair. And evenings are the perfect time to take pictures of friends or family, as there is no wet grass to traipse through, and shade is easy to find. But the big, BIG reason to photograph in the evenings is the quality of the light. It gets more magical around sunset.
Photographers often refer to the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset as the golden hours. The 30 minutes following sunset, when there is still light left in the sky, is also loved by many shooters. Either way, the light is more beautiful and interesting than it is during normal daylight hours. Colors are warmer (in the sun), shadows are longer, and contrast is lower because the sunlight is more diffused, having to pass through more atmosphere as the sun gets lower in the sky.
UT campus buildings at dusk. Copyright by Gene Forrest
Many wedding and portrait photographers are light-conscious, and prefer to do their location photography in the evenings. This shot by Lee Hulsman has the hallmarks of an early evening portrait. Landscape photographers like the late afternoon/early evening because shadows add a visual element to the scene that they don’t have in the middle of the day. The side lighting from the lower sun reveals texture better, too. Urban photographers especially appreciate twilight—that time when artificial lights have come on, but there is still light left in the sky. Buildings that are fairly monotone in the middle of the day can come alive at twilight. Compare the shots of the University of Tennessee campus above and below to see how the buildings can look in different light.
UT campus buildings in mid-afternoon. Copyright by Gene Forrest
Good travel photographers are often getting their cameras out when the tourists are putting theirs up, as they, too, know and appreciate good light. Gil Azouri is one travel photographer who loves photographing shortly before and after sunset. These pictures he took of Budapest reveal a rich mixture of yellows and blues that would have been absent earlier in the day.
Novice photographers who learn to recognize good light and take advantage of it can move beyond the realm of "snapshot-takers" into the more respectable designation of "amateur photographers.” Three useful items to help with evening photographs are a tripod, a light reflector, and a lens hood. A pop-up flash or an add-on flash is also very useful for shooting people in the shade against a brighter background.