Time to Shine

Edited by Rebecca Kesler

Many outdoor photographers say The Golden Hours (early morning or later afternoon) are the best times of day to photograph, when light is natural, warm, golden and reddish in hue. Occurring twice, around sunrise and sunset, when the sun is between 4o below the horizon and 6o above it, when the Sun's rays travel further to reach us, and the Earth's atmosphere scatters the blue and violet wavelengths permitting the orange and red spectrums to dominate, creating ideal conditions for photographs where the light is softer in tone.

Consequently, photographers can struggle with photographing at certain times of the day. As suggested morning or late afternoons are preferred. When it's midday, when the suns at its zenith, this can create sharp, unclear, overexposed photos due to harsh light. If you're unsure when to take an outdoor photograph, look outside. Observe the shadows of buildings, trees and even cars. If the shadows are highly contrasting, then the light is strong. It’s probably best to pause. Whilst if the shadows are greyer, softer in tone, this can help avoid over exposure. If you have no choice but to snap a midday picture, look for a shady place. For example, you have photographed a boy outside. The sun is strong and harsh, bright on his face (photos 1 and 2). It's not a good picture at all. What do you do? A tip is to photograph him under a tree, ensuring a gentle light falls over his face (photo 4).

It also makes sense that the sun’s position relative to the object being photographed affects the image. The same boy is being photographed. It is The Golden Hour, yet he is squinting, and your picture is shadowy. Again, what do you do? Simple, reposition the boy so the sun’s behind him and the backlight can burnish his hair (photo 3).

Additionally, weather can impact a photo. Have you ever looked at a rainy image and felt your mood change? Weather can impact a photograph's brightness. Sunny days are a photographer’s preference, yet cloudy days can be important. Clouds come in all shapes: cumulus, cumulonimbus, stratus and stratocumulus. Bigger clouds can soften a photograph adding a compositional element to your picture.

A common question asked is what camera should I buy, what device should I use to create?

When buying a camera, the main question to ask is what do you want the camera to do? What are you looking for (no pun intended!)? Do you want a simple point and shoot SLR or a digital camera with greater image control? It is easy to get trapped commercially though most of us want quality without breaking the bank. Cameras range in price from £1 to £40,000! So, deciding a budget is important.

When choosing a camera, think about lenses, the sensor size and pixels. Standard cameras usually have one of four different lenses - 85mm (great for portraiture), 50mm or 35mm prime lenses (great for landscape/portraiture) or 16-80mm regular zoom lenses that offer wider scope whilst licensing macro photos. However, it’s also possible to buy additional lenses.

The sensor size is also worth consideration. Originally the sensor was film, but now digital cameras have image sensors consisting of millions of light sensitive spots (called photosites). They record the light transforming it into data that is then represented (on screen/photo) by megapixels (millions of pixels). Pixels are tiny colour squares (in varying tones and hues) that together build the digital image. Consequently, the bigger the sensor, the better the image because more data is recorded meaning more detailed pictures. A higher megapixel camera produces a better-quality image.

Another important question when buying a camera is, who’s the camera for? Are you buying for yourself or someone else? Is it for a professional/amateur? You may decide to purchase a camera for your child. Photography is a great hobby especially if your child's creative but doesn’t like painting/drawing. Take walks together. Encourage your child to take the perfect shot. Have family fun, keep them busy and educate all at once.

Gary from "The London Camera Exchange Group" recommended three different cameras for beginners. The first (recommended for youngsters) was the Sony W800 Basic priced at £70 with a 5x optical zoom and a 20.1-megapixel high resolution image sensor. It’s light and compact so it’s carriable but has enough features for beginners. He also recommended the Sony HX-90 with 30x optical zoom, 18.2-megapixels with viewfinder priced around £320. It too is succinct, ideal for travellers. If you’re looking for a more professional camera, Gary prescribed the Canon 1300D priced at £360. Good for beginners, students and new DSLR hobbyists. Fairly priced it’s cheaper than the average compact camera. Comes with 18-megapixel sensor and zoom lens that can be adapted.


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