Attractive, appealing photographs, especially of structures, are more about exceptional or unusual light than anything else and the middle of the usual work day does not often provide the best lighting. So here is a breakdown of the best times of day for exterior photographs.
The “Blue Hour” is what photographers call the time beginning about 30-45 minutes before dawn and immediately following sunset because of the rich blue nature of the light. There are very nice colors in the sky that change from minute to minute. The light can be gentle and flattering but also create very deep, rich colors. It’s a flattering time for many buildings. The image above was made during the “Blue Hour” and light was balanced with interior lighting.
The “Golden Hour” begins with the sunrise and lasts about an hour. In the late afternoon it starts about 1 hour before sunset. During these times the light takes on a marked golden tone. The color is dramatic, the shadows are long, and the modeling is flattering and dramatic. There is no better description of this time than “golden”. Almost anything looks good during the “Golden Hour” and buildings are no exception.
As the golden color fades to normal daylight, the sun stays low and the shadows long providing flattering light with good modeling for another hour or two. Later in afternoon another hour or two of good daylight precedes the afternoon golden hour. The image below was made during the “Golden Hour”. Notice the flattering glow the light produces.
The middle of the day is rarely good for outdoor photographs. The sun is high, the shadows unflattering, and nothing looks it’s best. If your photographer’s work looks flat, dull, hot or generally uninteresting, it’s a good bet it was done during midday.
I hope these examples demonstrate why I wait for these special times of day for exterior photographs.