I’m sitting in a coffee shop right now, looking out the window. The light is beautiful and I wish I had my camera. But the sun is shifting quickly and I know it won’t last. Let’s talk a little about that light today. When’s the best time of day to take photos and why?
Now I could argue that the best time to take photos is now. All the time. By all means, get your camera out and capture those moments before they disappear. But if you want to know my favorite times to take planned photos of your favorite people, you’re in the right place.
You’ll find the softest, most dreamy light two times during the day: dawn and dusk. Since I need a truckload of coffee and 6 alarms to get me going in the morning, dawn is not really my thing. However, if you’re a morning person, get out there in that hour after the sun rises and you’ll find gorgeous light washing across everything.
If you’re like me and can’t fathom getting out of bed with the sun, then you’re going to want to wait until that last hour before the sun sets. Now when I say “sets”, I really mean when the sun drops behind the tree line (or building line if you live in a city). If you live in a wide open plain state, you may have more time in the evenings before you actually see the sun disappear. However, if you live in a heavily wooded place or a big city, the sun might disappear a little more quickly. The best way to find out? Just watch for a few nights and take note of the time you can’t see the sun anymore. Look around and you’ll see that the light changes quickly from a golden wash to just dark enough that you have to squint a little to see details.
TIP: When scheduling out photo sessions months in advance, I do a quick google search that looks like this: (sunset, my zip code, date) and voila! Google spits out an exact sunset time. (You can also find sunset calculators online.) I go back about 1.5 hrs before this time and that’s when I set my photo session times. This gives us plenty of time to finish up, but the very best light typically comes in at the end of our time together.
So what is this elusive, “good light” that I’m talking about? You may have heard this dusk time referred to as “ the golden hour”, and for good reason. The light is golden, warm, soft, forgiving, and just plain easy to work with. I’m always on the lookout for soft, EVEN lighting. I don’t want harsh shadows or light that makes my clients squint. I don’t want bright “hot spots” of light on the ground or on my subjects. So if I’m patient and I wait until just before sunset, suddenly all of those shadows disappear and I can walk my clients around anywhere and know that they’re going to be washed in beautiful light that makes them glow.
So if you want to photograph your kids in their brand new Easter outfits or snap a family photo for the Christmas card, you’re going to want to plan on shooting during the “golden hour”. It’s not always convenient and in the summer, it’s almost always around bedtime, but it’s worth it. Squeeze in naps and bring along treats to bribe them….whatever it takes. Yes, you can take photos any time of the day and sometimes you need to. But if you have a choice, chase that sun until it dips below the horizon. You won’t regret it.
Until Next Time!