Golden hour light versus Midday light. What are your thoughts?

Ray Sachs

Not too far from Philly
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you should be able to figure it out...
I agree. A lot of people always say not to shoot in midday light, but I think it has its own charms. I do mostly B&W and I LIKE harsh shadows, for one thing. Anytime there's light, photography is possible. For landscapes, golden hour always seems to make them look prettier, but prettier may not always be what you're after...



Huntsville, AL
Real Name
I agree with Ray. Each has its own charms. For midday light, I prefer slightly overcast. While golden hour light doesn't produce the harshness that strong midday light does, it does create some challenges with lighting if one wants to take a picture of something at sunset that really needs to be taken at sunrise.


betwixt and between
Real Name
Martin, good thoughts. I'm of the opinion that "the rules of photography" are generally made to be broken.:wink: Although it's important to understand exposure, etc., I think the the creative process is completely individual. There was a person that used to comment to me (not here) that my highlights were "blown out"...and was quite critical of this. The thing is that I wanted my highlights to be the way I had chosen them to be and didn't consider them to be "blown out". You know, one person's vision is always going to be different from another's - and thank goodness!

In your two examples, I can see the beauty of the colors and light in your first which works really nicely with the scene, and in your second the shadows and the silhouette of the bare tree also compliment each other very well.

For me, it's often when I notice the late afternoon light that I want to run outside...and bring my camera. Yet, this winter I often took pictures in the morning and found the snow to be a fantastic addition to my picture making.

All good stuff to think about so thank you for your thought provoking thread, Martin!


Martin I love early morning and late afternoon sunlight
I think it creates wonderful images far better than high noon day sun


Administrator Emeritus
Philly, Pa
Dang it all. There's another rule I don't follow. Now I know we're to follow the Golden Light rule, The Rule of Thirds and many other rules. Dang it, I only follow 1 rule intentionally.
That there rule is that I don't follow them rules. Of course I even break that one and I set it for myself.....

So...... In the olde daze, it was thought that the most photogenic light was early morning before 1000 and after around 1400. See ya got that early Kodachrome light in the AM and the Ektachrome light in the PM.

I was a young shooter and believed everything anyone told me so, I'd eat a long brunch and not make images between 1000-1400. It was afterall a known fact that the light in that time period sucked.
So I got to thinking.... hmmm I thought..... There's a lot of wasted light happening and I'm not ungrateful so I'm gonna make images even in the wAsteland of High Noon.
I stood proud, Leica in hand facing the world while every knowledgeable shooter looked at me as if I were a fool.

I made images during the off time.
I thought that Mother Light put the light on the subject for a reason.
It would be a dishonor to not show her due respect.

To make a long story short.... If the lights there, use it...
If not, boost yer ISO or use flash....
What counts is your images, not the rules that bind you to not making them....


Super Moderator Emeritus
Sofia, Bulgaria
Real Name
Probably a rule invented by landscape photographers but since I'm not that fussed on landscapes it's irrelevant to me. When shooting urban environments generally (and urban environments are my favourites) late afternoon or early morning light is often of limited value since all those pesky buildings get in the way of the gentle rays and create huge areas of shadow.

Right now most of my photographs are of a slightly beaten up run down soviet era neighbourhood of apartment blocks (currently serving as my front page slideshow:)). The last thing I need for the look I'm after is soft gentle light.



Hey All,

Yeah it is pretty much a landscape thing although light is critical in portraiture as well. In my mind it really comes down to what you want to "say" with your photo. Harsh light emphasizes contrast and starkness for images like olli's front page slideshow which is probably what he wanted. You have to wonder what ambience other lighting conditions would have produced for some of those images. Also overcast skies tend to bring out some colour saturation which harsh light obscures.



Super Moderator Emeritus
Sofia, Bulgaria
Real Name
I agree on the overcast (got no choice since overcast is all we've had here in Tbilisi for the last few months). Many of the pics on my front page were taken in the hours between 10am and 2pm and many of them on overcast or rainy days. Overcast does wonders for colours - even greys.


The midday light images benefits form the strong contrast and that hulking great shadow. It's quite dramatic. That said, I usually prefer morning or late afternoon light as the colors can be extraordinary and also quite dramatic. I think the knock on midday light is that in many situations it tends to flatten everything out. I agree with depends on what you want to photograph. Besides, rules were meant to be broken.

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