Red Light Photography

Before you digress too much, this deals with the time of the day when the sun appears almost RED.

Have you ever given it a thought why this occurs only in the late evening or early mornings? 

The simple reason for this to occur is that during the hours when the sun hangs low in the sky, its rays have to go through much more of disturbance (atmospheric and city generated pollution) and the only wavelengths that make it through are the ones close to the red. Thats the reason why the light reaching on your subject late in the day or early in the morning has that rich golden orange quality to it.

Compare that to the Sun when it is a little high in the sky. It looks completely white (if you can manage to look at it).

Now, if and when you decide to shoot under such conditions (sun high in the sky), there are a couple of things that you need to consider

1. Since almost all the visible wavelengths reach down on the subject now, the light quality looks very white. Will it make for images that connect and have the same visual impact?

2. A high sun-angle means a lot of harsh shadows on the face of the subject. Take a look at the following image of the Cheetah for e.g.


Its a decent moment where a Cheetah has come in to claim its food but the harsh shadows on the face and the quality of the light just kills this image.

3. With wildlife, a catchlight in the eye is something that one always aspires for. A high sun angle makes that almost impossible. Take a look at the following image montage. Notice the quality of light changing in each of the images?

A warm image gives rich color tones and makes the subject look so much better.

A lot of people I met in the field seem oblivious to the quality of light. Believe me, its important that your image connects with your viewer and your viewer does not know or ‘should not’ need to know the effort behind every single shot irrespective of whether you have crawled 20mtr or 100mtr for that image unless of-course it is something special. Take a look at the following image of a bird called the ‘Sanderling’. It is one of the prettiest waders and it is a very sharp image.

That does NOT make it a good image. It is just a portrait clicked at a very high sun angle making the image look a ghostly white thats all.

So next time if you are planning a shoot, make sure you take the sun angle into consideration and come back with images that have a strong connect. A low sun angle is natures way of improving your photography..use it.


Please feel free to share and comment if you learnt something from this post today..

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  1. Saju Devassy April 10, 2017 at 7:21 am #

    Why dont we just use the onboard flash to negate some shadows and get some catch light in the eye.

    • April 18, 2017 at 3:33 am #

      Technically – Yes this is actually used a lot for negating shadows and adding the catchlight.
      Aesthetically – The base nature of light still doesn’t change. It still is that washed out white..

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