The most important element for many great photographs is the lighting. Warmth, depth, texture, form, contrast, and colour are all dramatically affected by the angle of the sunlight, and the time of day. Shooting at the optimum time is often the biggest difference between an ‘average’ and a ‘professional’ shot.
In the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun is low, the light is gold and orange, giving your shot the warmth. Professional photographers call these the ‘magic hours’ and most movies and magazine shots are made during this brief time. It takes extra planning, but saving your photography for one hour after sunrise, or one to two hours before sunset, will add stunning warmth to your shots.
Plan Your Day
Assuming a sunrise at 6am and sunset at 7pm, and that your family/friends suddenly give you the reverence and servility you so obviously deserve, a good day might be:
5am: Pre-dawn: A pink, ethereal light and dreamy mist for lakes, rivers and landscapes.
6-7am: Dawn: Crisp, golden light for east-facing subjects.
7am-10am: Early morning: The city comes to life; joggers in the park.
10-2pm: Midday: The sun is much too harsh for landscapes and people, but perfect for monuments, buildings and streets with tall buildings.
2pm-4pm: Afternoon: Deep blue skies with a polarizer filter.
4pm-6:45pm: Late Afternoon: Golden light on west-facing subjects. Best time for landscapes and people, particularly one hour before sunset.