When is the best time of day to shoot?
The light throughout the day varies considerably and can have a huge impact on the pictures you take. Although the light varies throughout the year, and at different locations around the world, we sometimes can't be as choosy on these - but time of day is something we can select.
Dawn (pre-sunrise) - a clean, cold light (i.e. almost blueish in colour) with no shadows cast. It has the added bonus that most people are still in bed so if you want pictures without other people around, this time of day is ideal. You can also get obscure photos without people staring at you (not that this would bother the serious photographer).
This time of day seems very popular for photos published in car magazines.
Sunrise - often has a warm colour to it with long shadows that can add great interest to your pictures, especially with black and white photography. The hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset are often referred to as the "Golden Hours".
Morning - after sunrise, the light can remain good until about mid-morning. Light at this time is ideal for landscapes as the sun provides a neutral coloured light often coupled with good visibility.
Midday - with the sun at its highest point in the sky, this is probably the worst time to take outdoor shots. With no direct light falling on the subjects from the side, you often get dark shadows. The eyes on portrait often become completely black. Best to put the camera away for a few hours, find yourself a nice pub and grab a bite to eat. If you must shoot midday, hope for a nice blue sky with interesting clouds. Straight after rain can also create nice light.
Afternoon - similar to morning although usually with warmer colours.
Sunset - Some wonderful pictures are possible, but as with sunrise the ideal light does not last for long so it pays to know the exact time of sunset for your location. Take your light reading off the sky to the side of the sun, and always bracket your shots.
Sunsets also lend themselves to some great silhouette shots. Position your subject directly in front of the sun and take your light reading off the sky.
Dusk - by utilising long exposures with your camera on a tripod, the camera is able to capture colours richer than you see by eye. Deep blues can change to purple, and then to orange, and finally brown over a fairly short period. The light can often be the most stunning part of the picture and it is ideal for capturing cityscapes. Many of the best night shots are actually taken at dusk when there is still a touch of colour in the sky.