24 Hour Special: Early Evening Magic
After the harsh light of high noon, the sun begins its downward descent, throwing elongated shadows and creating warm, pleasing reflections.
While the sun is on its way down, the quality of light changes drastically. It becomes increasingly softer as the day wears on. You can make great use of this soft, warm light in the afternoon and early evening since it allows you to shoot different genres of photography.
As early evening sets in, the sun is at a lower angle. Such angular light is extremely useful for different kinds of photography, especially for shooting subjects like plants, beaches, portraiture and landscapes.
Sidelighting is extremely effective in bringing out textures and colours in your subject. It also helps separate your subject from the background by giving it a three dimensional feel. Early evening is a good time to shoot people, since the sun adds a warm glow to their face and enhances their facial features.
Make Use of the Quality of Light
The harshness or softness of light determines the mood conveyed by the photograph. In the afternoon and early evening, the quality of light changes gradually through the time period. Initially, the light is a little harsh. As the afternoon progresses, the light becomes increasingly softer. Choose your subjects accordingly.
For example, it is a good idea to shoot portraits slightly later in the day, say, at around 4.30-5pm, since the light is softer at that time. On the other hand, if it is a slightly stark feel that you are looking out for, the light early in the afternoon, at around 3-3.30pm, is ideal.
Observe the Effect of Sunlight
The effect of sunlight striking various objects creates an interesting play of light. Observe the manner in which the sun casts shadows at different times of the day. As afternoon stretches into early evening, shadows become longer and can be used effectively.
Besides shadows, sunlight creates an interesting effect when it falls on a water body, or reflects off a metallic object.
Diffuse Window Light
Although the quantity of light coming in through the window is not as much as that at noon, it is more useful to shoot objects that are placed directly beside the window. Window light is interesting as it results in a unique play of light and shadow.
You can use curtains to diffuse the light, and use a thermocol sheet as a reflector to fill in the shadows. You can also use sheets of transparent plastic or even bottles to filter the light, for interesting effects. Portraits and tabletop photography can benefit greatly from window lighting.
You can experiment with different camera settings to make best use of the soft, afternoon light. Manually setting your camera’s white balance to ‘Cloudy’ or ‘Shade’ will make the scene even warmer. In fact, this can be used in the early afternoon to make it seem as if you have shot the scene later in the day.
Since afternoon light brings out the colours of a subject, especially that of warm colours like yellows and reds, you can experiment with your in-camera settings of contrast and saturation to make the colours look more vivid.
If there is a distracting glare formed due to the position of the sun with respect to your camera, move around and try to find an alternative shooting angle. While a lens hood is extremely useful, you can also use your hand or a hat to shade your lens.
You can also minimise glare by using filters. A polariser can be extremely useful for shooting reflections. It minimises distracting glare from water and enhances the clarity of the reflection. It is also useful while capturing the deep, blue skies of a beautiful landscape.
Reduce the Intensity of Light
Using a Neutral Density filter helps reduce the amount of light passing through the lens. This is useful when you require slow shutterspeeds in broad daylight.
On the other hand, a Graduated Neutral Density filter helps reduce the amount of light gradually through the frame, and can be used to tone down a part of the image that is too bright; for example, it can be used effectively to get details in the foreground while shooting a sunset. These filters reduce light of all wavelengths equally and thus, do not affect the overall colours and tones of the photograph.
If you are shooting black and white, you can use a pair of sunglasses or gelatin paper to reduce the intensity of light. While shooting colour images, you can use these supplementary ‘lenses’ creatively to add a coloured tone to your image.
While one can say that the light in the afternoon and early evening is similar to that in the mornings, its warmer colour temperature gives it an interesting twist. Also, afternoons and evenings see a lot more activity in outdoor places than mornings. All said and done, it is a great time to shoot if you are learning photography, since it makes things easier for you and enhances your photographs.
To see the various ways you can shoot throughout the day, visit http://betterphotography.in/2012/01/13/photography-clock-24hrs-special/
This article originally appeared in the February 2009 issue of Better Photography.