Time – 5 Essential Tips For Photographers

The cosmic clock is ticking... photographers should be aware of time

The cosmic clock is ticking... photographers should be aware of time

Time is an imperative for photographers

An essential element of photography, time impacts on us photographers in many ways. Here are some of the issues you should be thinking about.

The Obvious
Of course… shutter speed, the time the shutter is open. We all know that it is one of the most important aspects of taking a photograph. Tip number one: is to know the impact of shutter speed on the other two important aspects of exposure. I am talking about ISO and Aperture. Without a clear understanding of how these three components interact photographers are doomed to live with auto-settings.

Shutter speed, ISO and aperture all work together to produce your exposure. Between the three of them there is a balance. Raise/lower one of these and one or both of the others have to be adjusted to compensate. Your exposure is a dynamic balance between these three elements. Shutter speed is inseparable from the other two. Read up on the three components of exposure so you understand the impact of shutter speed.

Less Obvious

Composition is a time related activity. We all think about the best way to take a shot. What do we included or exclude? How do we frame? What angle is best? The questions are endless… the compositional variations are too. Actually, the important issue is getting the shot. Some people walk up to a scene snap and go. Have they considered the composition fully? There is a balance to be had. Time is important. I find that as my students develop the shot consideration-time shortens. They spend less time thinking about ‘the’ shot and more time working on variations… hunting for the right shot; working the scene. Tip number two is learn the settings on your camera and practice thinking about compositional elements but remember the time. Get in a number of shots, different angles, perspectives and so on. As you practice these skills try to work to time. Don’t machine-gun your shots. Work the scene – quickly, efficiently.

Being there

Timing is everything: If you don’t turn up you will miss the shot. In photography getting to the right place at the right time is everything. If you are late you will miss something… I am certain that quite often it will be the importing ‘thing’. Tip number three… leave on time, know where you are going and leave enough time to set up before you are going to take the shots. It sounds an obvious tip. However, there is a hidden component. The most important part of getting the shot is being in the right place at the right time. That will need some work. Work the scene before the event; the day before, the hour before. Which ever is right. Know where you will be taking the shots. Know what are the best places to stand. Know in advance what shots you want to take. This planning is essential if you want to make the right moves when you are doing your shoot.

Knowing the time: A lot of activities in photography are about time of day. The Golden Hour at the beginning and end of the day is quite a precise time. Knowing when it starts and ends is something you should think about if you are to make the best use of your time. Precise timings for the Golden Hour are calculated as are the angle of the sun to a particular location. It is therefore possible for you to know what time you need to be at a place to catch the golden glow of this great time of day. And, you can find out what direction to look in if the sun is not apparent when you arrive. If you don’t know the terrain you could turn up at a location and find that your times are out because the hills prevent you seeing the sun at that time.

Tip number four… know the time, and direction of your shot in advance and make sure the light is right! Consult a map to work out if you will be in hills. Ordnance Survey maps  External link - opens new tab/page have contours to indicate the lie of lines of hills and their height. You can find out the times of the Golden Hour on The Golden Hour Calculator  External link - opens new tab/page. You can also find the position of the sun  External link - opens new tab/page at any time of the day.

Tip five… Other important times of day you should know about:
Dawn and Dusk times: dawn is the start of the morning golden hour; Dusk is the end of the evening golden hour. However, having a knowledge of exactly what time the sun rises and sets lets you know how much time you have left on your shoot (or when it is about to start).
Mid-day: this is the time the sun is likely to be harsh, producing hard light. Mid-day is not a good time for photography. Colours may be washed out and the overhead sun reduces those all-important shadows. Remember, local DST (Daylight Saving Time) may may affect the time the sun is overhead.
Moon phases and times: The moon is a great addition to night shots. Knowing when it is up and what phase it is at is important. There are several websites with Moon tables and times.
Astronomy: The astronomical side of photography is great fun and very rewarding. You will need to have precise timings of astronomical events starting and finishing as well as knowing where to look.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
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