The biggest pile of bull crap I’ve ever heard is that you have to have a great camera and know a ton about Photoshop to take good photos. Instead, figure out the small number of things that you can do with the gear you have to go from mediocre to stunning.
This article is just one of the many topics we’ll be going over during the Creative Capture Weekend Workshop this January (find out more here).
The success in the bottom photo wasn’t because of the camera I had. In fact, the top photo was taken with a camera that cost about 5x the amount. It wasn’t the lens I was using – it was taken with the “kit” lens that came with the camera, which professionals often criticize for being less sharp. It wasn’t the megapixels in the camera – the bottom photo was taken with a 6MP camera, the top with a 24 MP camera.
It’s much, much, easier and more cost effective that anything above!
The time of day this photo was taken has everything to do with it’s success.
The top photo was taken on an overcast day at 11:30 am. The light is “blah.” there’s hardly any color in this photo and it’s really not interesting. Could the photo be enhanced to look a little better? Sure! We could darken the sky some more, add a bit more contrast. But the photo would still be “meh.”
The bottom photo was taken during the “Golden Hour” of the day.
The Golden Hour happens twice a day. During the first hour after the sun rises, and during the last hour of the day before the sun sets. At this time of day, the sun is low in the sky and casts strong shadows that create texture. In the bottom photo you can see the definition of the blades of weeds in the field, you can see intensely the peeling paint on the building and each individual piece of glass in the window.
During this time of day the light also becomes a golden color, warming up everything it touches.
Because the light is hitting the field and the building and is not hitting the clouds, it adds an extreme amount of contrast between the foreground and the storm clouds in the background.
The trick to using the Golden Hour of the day is making sure the sun is out or is going to come out. In this case, the sun was still gleaming behind me to the West even though the clouds were rolling across the sky. I only had the chance to take 5 frames before the sun went under a cloud and the scene changed completely.
To sum it up, take your photo out with you during the first and last hour of each day to take your photos from “meh” to stunning. During the winter months this hour is somewhere around 7:30-8:30 am and 3:30 – 4:30pm. During the summer it’s more like 5:30 – 6:30 am and 8-9 pm.