As a family photographer, I often get asked about the best time of day to take photos outside. It’s an important question, because lighting plays a crucial role in creating beautiful, heartfelt family images. The right lighting can make your photos pop, while the wrong lighting can leave them looking dull, lifeless and plain.
Well, it depends on what kind of lighting you’re looking for. Here are a few factors to consider:
As a family photographer, I will tell you that the best time to take photos outside is during the “golden hour.” You may be wondering, what is the “golden hour”? This is the hour before sunset, when the sun is low on the horizon and the light is glowing and soft. The golden hour is a popular time for portrait photographers, as it creates a flattering, natural-looking light that makes skin tones look warm and glowing.
According to an article from the Digital Photography School ( click here ), “During golden hour, the light is diffused and warm, with long, soft shadows that help to create depth and texture in your images. This light is perfect for creating stunning portraits, landscapes, and even macro shots.”
In my opinion as a family photographer, Golden Hour is my favorite time of day for photos no matter what season. I find that this time of day creates a beautiful glow that is a hallmark in many great family portraits. Photos taken at golden hour can give a feeling of warmth and an overwhelming glow that can highlight any beautiful emotion in a family session.
The “blue hour” is a term used by photographers to describe the period of twilight just before sunrise, when the sky takes on a blue hue. This term no very widely know outside of the photography community and many wonder why this is the best time to take family photo sessions outdoors. This time of day can be particularly stunning for family photos, as the soft, diffused light creates a moody and atmospheric effect. In addition to the beautiful lighting, the blue hour also offers a unique backdrop for family photos. The deep blues and purples of the sky can create a striking contrast with warm, earthy tones in clothing or scenery.
According to an article from Clickin Moms ( click here ), “The blue hour is great for capturing dramatic portraits and landscapes, with deep blues and purples in the sky and a soft, even light that’s perfect for flattering skin tones.”
For those who dont mind waking up VERY early, this can be a great time for family photos. Plus, since the blue hour is typically less crowded than golden hour, it can be easier to find a peaceful, secluded location for your shoot. Although many clients dont choose waking up at this un-godly hour to take family photos, it can be a great time for families with small children that can’t stay up late enough or golden hour photos.
While golden hour is certainly a great time for photos, it’s not always practical. For example, if you have young children who need to be in bed before sunset, you might not be able to schedule your session during the golden hour. That’s okay – mid-day light can be beautiful too. However, mid-day light can also be harsh and unflattering, especially if you’re shooting in an open area with no shade. To avoid this, may photographers shoot in the shade of trees or a building to avoid harsh light.
According to a post from Clickin Moms ( click here ), “Direct sunlight can be used to create dramatic, high-contrast images with deep shadows and bright highlights. It can also create interesting lens flare and sunbursts.”
In my opinion taking family photos in mid-day light is very risky unless I have a specific location that is in the shade . Even if you choose a location that is under cover of trees he sun moves during the day and photographers have to constantly be on the move chasing the shade. Taking photos in the middle of the day are my last resort unless we get lucky and have a cloudy day.
Another great time for photos is on cloudy days. Cloudy skies create a soft, diffused light that can be very flattering for portraits. Of course, the downside of shooting on a cloudy day is that the light can be quite flat and lacking in contrast. To add some depth and interest to your photos, many photographers use a reflector or fill flash to add some light to their subject’s face.
A post from Outdoor Photographer ( click here ) explains, “Cloudy days provide even, diffused lighting that can create flattering portraits without the harsh shadows and highlights that often accompany sunny days.”
Although shooting on a cloudy day can be a great time of day fo outdoor photo shoots it is very hard to predict the weather. If you really have to take your photos in the middle of the day because of scheduling and your photographer doesn’t think shooting in the shade is a good option it may be worth it to let your photographer know you are flexible. This way they can check the weather and plan a couple of days ahead of time for a cloudy day to meet in the middle.
The best time of day to take photos outside depends on what kind of lighting you’re looking for. Golden hour and Blue hour shoots can provides warm, soft light that is perfect for portraits and landscapes, while mid-day light can create dramatic images bu can be very unpredictable. Cloudy days provide even, diffused lighting that is great for portraits. Whichever time you choose, be sure to pay attention to the quality of the light and listen to your photographer and what they suggest.
In my opinion as a family photographer, the best time to take family pictures outside is golden hour (partially because I am not a morning person!). It is my favorite time to schedule family photo shoots for my client’s because of the atmosphere it creates. Some of my most impactful family portraits were at sunset and it is always a client favorite. You cant ever go wrong when you choose a good family photographer that aligns with your style but make sure to take note of some of your favorite family photos in your photographers portfolio. If you want to mimic a certain style is is key to schedule your session for the same time of day, if not you will not get the same look.
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