As a family portrait photographer, I look for moments that tell your family story, show you interacting with each other, and capture some of the hilarious messiness of family life. As a photographer, I am always looking for the best light. When we schedule your outdoor family portrait session, we have to find a time when ALL of these things are possible. That means a time that works for your family members’ schedules and temperaments AND that will give us the soft light we’re looking for.
The best time of day for portrait photos is within two hours of sunrise and sunset. That is when the light is soft, the shadows are long, and the sun is low on the horizon. These times of day are rightly referred to as the “golden hours” in photography because you can get that dreamy golden light that seems to surround the entire photograph. Once the sun is out of these sunrise and sunset windows, the overhead light is harder, less directional, more shadowy, and less flattering.
Of course it’s my job to make sure that your photos are beautiful no matter what, and I always deliver. I’m like the Postal Service. Rest assured that whether it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, sunny, high noon or dusk, I can make you lovely photos. But with a little planning and thinking about your family’s schedule, I can make you some really stunning photos at the most flattering and lovely time of day, when the light outside is gorgeous and soft.
First, you need to decide if your family will be at their best in the morning or evening, factoring in wake time, nap time, meal time, and bed time. I have found that for families with babies and toddlers, the mornings are often best. Many kids are already awake early and in better spirits early in the day. So we aim for a 7:30am start. For families with slightly older, school-age kids, the evenings are a little easier, when ice cream is a promised treat and the busiest times of day are in the past. So we aim for a 5:30pm start. (Naturally, the actual timing varies depending on the time of year and the length of the days. So we look up the times of sunrise and sunset for the day and then find our ideal windows for portraits.)
Each time of day will have it’s pros and cons, of course. (And I can do either morning or evening.)
The best timing will be different for every family. But the closer we can get to these golden hours of early morning and early evening, the more artful our photographs can be.