Different types of light and the mood they create

Photography is all about light!

It is one of the main creative elements that helps us create an emotion in our images. It is so powerful that different light of the same scene can completely transform the mood and the storyline of a photo. So that is why it is so essential to learn about all the different type of light in photography and the mood they can create.

In this blog post I will specifically focus on light in landscape & travel photography because that is what I mostly shoot. I truly believe that often it doesn’t matter what your subject is, if the light is good it will add interest to the viewer. So here we go, these are the main types of light used in landscape and travel photography:

harsh light


harsh light

Harsh light or High Sun is exactly that, it’s when the sun is high above you in the sky and usually it makes everything look harsh, contrasty, saturated and with lots of shadows. It is not the most flattering light and for that reason most photographers try and avoid it.

However harsh light creates certain emotions so you can use it as a tool to tell a certain story. Look at a photo taken in harsh light (for example people at the beach in summer at 1pm) and think about how it makes you feel.

The emotions that often arise with this type of light are: fun, optimistic, energetic, strong, vibrant, full of life. So knowing the emotions that go with it you can consciously choose to shoot in this kind of light.


Flat light



Flat light is the light you see on a cloudy and overcast day. It is very even and the complete opposite of harsh light.

Usually means no shadows, more muted colours and less contrast.

It is a great light to focus on details, use interesting composition or incorporate a creative technique to add more interest in a flat light photo.

Images taken in flat light usually create the following moods: peace, tranquility and moody drama.


golden hour


golden hour

When the Sun is low above the horizon, sunlight rays must penetrate the atmosphere for a greater distance, reducing the intensity of the direct light, so that more of the illumination comes from indirect light from the sky, reducing the lighting ratio. More blue light is scattered, so if the Sun is present, its light appears more reddish. In addition, the Sun's low angle above the horizon produces longer shadows. Because the contrast is less during the golden hour, shadows are less dark, and highlights are less likely to be overexposed.

In landscape photography, the warm colour of the low Sun is often considered desirable to enhance the colours of the scene. It is the best time of day for any type of photography since the light is properly diffused and warm.

Golden hour light created the following moods: magical, romantic, soft, warm, glowy, dreamy.


blue hour


blue hour

While most photographers know about golden hour there is another time of day that is equally magical but less well known, the Blue Hour.

Blue Hour happens every day just before sunrise and just after sunset. Unlike the Golden Hour, though, the Blue Hour is typically much shorter than one hour. In some places, it’s over within 15 minutes–or barely happens at all. The only places with a long Blue Hour are near the polar caps, like Northern Russia or Canada, Svalbard (Norway), where the sun stays low through the winter.

I absolutely love this time of the day exactly because of the moods it creates: Otherworldly, imaginary, ethereal, mystical, transcendental with very soft tones.

Remember next time you’re out photographing the sunset to stay a little bit longer after the sun sinks below the horizon and watch the magic happen.


So, which one is your favourite?

If you would like to learn more about photography check out my e-book: How To Take Better Photos.