Paris, Musée d'Orsay, architect Victor Laloux's (1898-1900) clock at the front end of main hall, photo by NSL Associates

In most North American locations yesterday, we reset our clocks, moving the time of day forward one hour to begin “Daylight Saving Time,” or “Daylight Time.” In some parts of North America, such as the states of Arizona (except for the Navajo Nation lands) and Hawaii in the US, and most of Saskatchewan in Canada, “Daylight Time” isn’t used. They stay on “Standard Time” throughout the year.

Since photography began, photographers have always been cognizant of the time of day, both because it can dramatically affect their work, both outdoors and inside, and for image documentation.

With today’s digital cameras, time documentation is automatically accomplished for us by the camera’s date/time module, with the time each photo is made embedded in each image’s metadata. However, the photographer must set the clock in the camera, and set it accurately.

North America isn’t alone in the world by moving its time forward in spring and back in fall. Across the globe, 79 nations use “Daylight Time” in at least part of their country. The Falkland Islands stay on “Daylight Time” throughout the year. Most countries on Earth, 159 at this time, remain in “Standard Time” all year.

For those countries which use “Daylight Time,” the date on which “Daylight Time” starts and ends varies from country to country, set by government regulation or law. It also varies according to which hemisphere each country is located, north or south.

I often hear the question, “When is the best time of day to shoot?” The answer is, of course, every time of the day is the “best” time to make photographs, as the light at these times can each set a particular mood, feeling or tone, giving an opportunity to show the same scene in far different and multiple “lights.”

Light varies throughout the year. It is affected by one’s location. As we approach the north and south poles, according to the time of year, while the intensity of daylight or darkness will change throughout each day, those changes may be diminished compared to locations at latitudes further from the poles. Last summer while photographing in the Arctic, just a few hundred miles from the North Pole, we barely had any darkness at all each day. The bottom line: Significant light changes during each day generally surpass the time of year and location in impacting photographs.

In order to know when the different times of the day will occur, photographers must be cognizant of the clock.

While keeping track of time, we can use tables, formulas and equations to determine times to be photographing during the most interesting parts of the day to utilize their effects of light on our subjects. Photographers can use such times as dawn, sunrise, morning, midday, afternoon, sunset, dusk and evening, lighted with artificial light, to tell their subject’s story well. Even inside, when photographing a person near windows, for example, those times of the day will affect both the exposure and mood of the photograph.

Photo documentation is also dependent upon time. Crime scene investigators aren’t the only ones for whom “time stamping” their photographs is important. For photo journalists, knowing when an image was made can be critical, too. For example, it differentiates between a series of photos of an event taking place, which in turn helps tell the story of the event. Sports photographers, for example, need to be able to tell if that touchdown, home run or ball or puck entering a goal in an image is the winning score of a game. Among “time stamp” uses travel photographers utilize are: to help them create tour series images, keep track of locations photographed and to keep their images synced with their GPS, if they utilize one.

Years ago, before digital photography was the norm for professional and amateur photographers alike, many photographers, especially travel photogs, kept notebooks documenting their images as they were made, which included time.

As we come to a change from “Standard Time” to “Daylight Time,” photographers need to remember to change the time in their digital camera when they change the clocks in their home and office. When it’s time to change back to “Standard Time” they need to remember to change their digital camera’s clock again.

Hint: Put both the start and finish of “Daylight Time” on your appointment calendar, with a specific reminder to change the time in your digital camera.

For travel photographers, you have an additional time consideration, which you should keep in mind during your domestic and international touring. Whenever you change to a new time zone, make sure you adjust your digital camera to take the new time zone into account.

Hint: When traveling, keep a detailed itinerary with you and make time zone change notations on it to remind you to update your camera with each time zone change.

Even if your location stays at “Standard Time,” it’s a good idea to periodically check that your digital camera’s clock is properly set.