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Morning Photography Tips – 6ix

Morning Photography
Morning conjures up thoughts of beautiful sunrises, the start of a new day, and perhaps brewing a cup of coffee while reading the newspaper. Photographers enjoy shooting early in the morning (and late in the day) for dramatic light. When shooting outdoors, the light is especially beautiful during the half-hour or so after sunrise. These early-morning hours can provide great lighting as well as the opportunity to photograph scenes before the crowds arrive. Additionally, industrial pollutants haven’t had a chance to settle in, making scenes even clearer than at dusk.
The color of light changes throughout the day, and has a warm cast early in the morning.
Reader photo by Charlene Samsel, Nescopeck, PA

1. Color Of Light

Our eyes adjust to the changing color that sunlight provides throughout the day. Nonetheless, film and digital sensors record the color of light the way they’re designed to see it. In the morning, the colors can range from a yellowish to rosy orange at sunrise. A neutral mix of colors occurs from mid-morning on a clear day, although shady areas will be tinged with blue. It’s important to recognize the changing color of light in order to compensate for it with film, or with your digital camera’s white-balance setting.

When shooting near dawn, you may want to bracket exposures to ensure good results.
Reader photo by Marie LaPlante, Springfield, VT

2. Use Silhouettes

If you’re photographing a sunrise, try to utilize an interesting foreground element against a colorful sky. A sky with beautiful oranges and reds can often be striking alone, but a foreground element can take your photos a step further by adding a center of interest and revealing something of your location. At dawn and dusk, a foreground subject will usually be rendered as a silhouette, so look for simple and easily recognizable shapes. A single person jogging on a road early in the morning, for example, may be a good subject for a silhouette.

At sunrise, foreground subjects will be rendered as silhouettes.
Reader photo by John Matthews, Harrogate, TN

3. Metering

When shooting at sunrise, you’ll find that several exposures will yield good results. Be careful to keep the sun out of the frame while you meter the light. Aim the lens at a bright area of sky just to the left or right of the sun itself. Hold the shutter button down halfway to lock in the exposure and then recompose your shot to include the sun if you want to.

4. Correcting Color Imbalances

Most film is balanced to give natural-looking results when used with daylight or flash illumination. Under incandescent illumination, daylight-balanced film (or a daylight white-balance setting) will record the orange bias of the light. If you photograph under incandescent lighting conditions, you can correct for this color imbalance by using a film balanced for tungsten light or set your camera’s white balance to the tungsten setting. (If you don’t have this particular setting on your digital camera, the auto-white balance will suffice in most cases.)

The rosy tones of sunrise can be effective in establishing mood in your photos.
Reader photo by Margaret Hildreth, Pensacola, FL

The warm amber or rosy tones of sunrise are effective in establishing a mood, but sometimes close-ups of people in this light may result in skin tones being excessively warm. There are times, however, when you’ll want to use early-morning light to give a little warmth and intimacy when photographing a person. Sometimes it’s just a matter of personal preference. Tungsten film–or a digital camera’s tungsten white-balance setting–will work to correct the light in this case. A little flash fill when photographing portraits will correct a too-warm balance altogether.

5. Say “Morning” In Your Photos

You don’t have to restrict your images to capturing the perfect sunrise. When taking pictures at dawn or during the morning hours, try to look for elements that spell out “a.m.” A cup of coffee on the counter, children going to school while adults leave for work, or a foggy scene can distinguish a morning photo from one taken late in the day.

Look for symbols that spell out “a.m.,” such as the morning coffee mug.
Reader photo by Jody Ward, Pleasanton, CA

6. Quick Tip

Use tungsten film, or your digital camera’s tungsten white-balance setting, to correct color imbalances.

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