Selecting The Perfect Time of Day for Your Portrait Session

Selecting the right time of day for your photo shoot is critical. Lots of my clients expect they can just suggest a time that suits them best in their schedule, (which is completely understandable) without realizing that picking a slightly more inconvenient time may actually benefit them a lot more, creating much more flattering portraits.

You can look at it the same way you do when you’re deciding whether or not to wear sunscreen – in the middle of the day the sun is harsh and bright and you will burn quickly. Nearing the end of the day as it gets closer to the horizon, you have less to worry about because it’s that much farther away and its rays are less intense.


The same applies when selecting a time for outdoor portraits. I can shoot in the middle of the day, but it will be challenging because I will need to select a shady spot and avoid all the direct sunlight. Bright sun from overhead will make all the subjects in the photo appear to have raccoon eyes. Dappled light on people’s faces will create bright spots and unevenness in the lighting (see all those crazy shadows in the image above?) Not to mention, everyone will want to keep their sunglasses on because the sun is so bright, leaving no room to really show your beautiful faces. If I force you to take them off – you’ll be squinting during the whole shoot!


If your session is scheduled for the early morning or late evening, you can take advantage of the sun at a lower angle in the sky, which creates a softer, more diffused light. This allows for more even lighting as well as a warmer quality of light. That’s why this is often called the Golden Hour for photography. It still allows for beautiful contrast and definition in your images, but with more control and even light. It’s truly a more beautiful time for photographs.


Overcast days do allow for more versatility because of a lack of direct sun. On these days the lighting can look rather dull and cold, so in this case I might choose to warm up the images in post-production a bit, or choose to convert to black & white. I tend to like a warmer quality to my images. But overcast and a bit dark doesn’t necessarily we mean we can’t go ahead with a shoot. Some of my favourite images have been taken on days like these. One advantage to shooting just before or after a rain is that you can get really dramatic clouds & skies in the background.


I love to consult with clients about how to achieve the very best results, but that doesn’t mean I’m not willing to adapt to whatever situation presents itself. I have been known to shoot from underneath an umbrella while capturing kids playing in large accumulating puddles. “Bad” weather doesn’t bother me and can sometimes create even more special and unique memories!


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