Photography and the position of the sun

Posted on June 07, 2013

The position of the sun, time of day, and the timing of sunrise and sunset is important for both landscape and general photography. It determines the direction of sunlight, direction and size of shadows, availability and color of natural light.

Stonekick’s Sun Position app provides timings including sunrise/sunset, twilight, and the golden hour for any date. It also shows the solar path overlayed on to your camera view allowing you to see where the sun will be at any time. Below I cover in a bit more detail why it is useful for photographers to have this information to hand.

The position of the sun and shadows

The position of the sun in the sky is important as it will determine the direction of sunlight. Knowing this will allow you to determine where shadows will occur within your composition, and can also allow you to try different techniques to make more interesting images. For example slide lighting to give a shot more depth and dimension, or backlighting to give a soft glow around, and an even textured light on to your subject.

Available Light

The amount, intensity, and direction of natural light varies throughout the day and year, and therefore the time of day which you take photos can have a significant impact on how they turn out.

In photography, the golden hour is often defined as the first and last hour of sunlight in the day. On a clear day between the start of the golden hour and sunset, lighting conditions are generally excellent for photography. The sun is low in the sky producing soft light which is more flattering and generally warmer in hue. Also, there is less contrast and longer shadows.

During twilight the sun is below the horizon, but it is not completely dark and the light is more bluish in tone. As there is a not a significant amount of light during this time, you need to use higher ISO settings, wider apertures and slower shutter speeds to let more light into your camera. However, this time can also produce interesting images. For example, the slower shutter speeds required will blur motion giving smooth textures to flowing water – many beautiful seascape images are taken at this time.

During the middle of the day the sun is high in the sky giving short shadows and harsh lighting conditions. The contrast between lit and shadowed areas can be very high making it difficult to capture the detail in both shadows and highlights. However, the significant amount of light available can provide good conditions for capturing the detail in textures.

The length and time of sunrise/sunset, twilight and the golden hour will change with the seasons and depending on your geographical location. Stonekick’s Sun Position app provides these timings for any date, and these will automatically update to your current location allowing you to always have this information handy so that you can take the best possible pictures!

This entry was tagged with: Sun Position