For most photographers, the sun is the most important light source. For more than 90% of photos, sunlight is the only source of light. But unfortunately, most photographers pay more attention to their flash attachment user’s manual even though the flash spends more time in a photographer’s bag, than to the lighting conditions that the sun provides. Many amateur photographers use the warm light in the late afternoon and in the early hours of the evening and rejoice in beautiful sunsets.

However, seldom do they plan their photographic intentions in relation to the sun’s position in advance. Most photographers are aware of the special effect that the sun causes when it is low in the sky and the soft, warm light or the incredible blue colour that it creates in the hour of the same name. With the right planning it is easy to use these effects effectively. This sounds less romantic but is the reality of many excellent professional and amateur photographers.

Planning the right time in relation to the sun’s position, fundamental knowledge of the sun’s position and course is useful. The sun’s position is dependent on the time of day, time of year (season) and latitude. Whereas in the polar regions in the winter months (the months are dependent on the northern or southern hemisphere) the sun barely rises over the horizon, in the northern and southern tropical circles the sun is in the solar zenith angle at midday during a solstice.
The duration of a day, the duration of dawn and dusk also depend on latitude and the time of year.

Below you will find a short, simplified overview of the way latitude determines the sun’s position.


Tropics / Subtropics

  • Short phases of dusk (short blue and golden hours)
  • Sun that is directly overhead causes sharp shadows and stark contrasts


Temperature / Tepid latitudes

  • Strong fluctuation of sun’s position depending on time of year
  • Longer phases of dusk (longer blue and golden hours)


Polar regions / Sub-polar regions

  • Extreme fluctuation of sun’s position depending on the time of year
  • Polar winter / Polar night
  • Polar summer / Midnight sun / Polar day
  • Some long periods of dusk


The exact times of the sun’s position no longer have to be determined by the photographer’s meticulous observation. In order to be able to plan in advance, there are numerous online tools you can use that calculate the sun’s position and the time the sun rises and sets and the duration of dusk for every location (

Below there is an example of a lighting condition characterised by the season and geographical location. The image was captured in Norway at the time of the midnight sun. The sun is visible just above the horizon for 24 hours a day and gives you the opportunity to capture “sunsets“ for 24 hours a day.

View from the tent – Somewhere between Narvik and North Cape – 1992

View from the tent – Somewhere between Narvik and North Cape – 1992
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