best time for outdoor photos|portrait photography

This weeks ‘tip of the week’ focuses on what is unarguably the most often asked question,

What’s the best time to take our photos?

The answer isn’t as easy as “sunrise” or “sunset” when the golden hours occur, although they certainly are a factor in the final decision. Instead, there are three things that are taken into consideration when determining the best time for your outdoor portrait session, and they are…

1.  What’s Your Availability?

I always ask my clients what they already have planned for the date in question.  Children these days often have very busy lives.  Weekends may be filled with football, soccer, or t-ball games… just to name a few!  Since portrait sessions may run up to three hours, it’s always nice to know what else you have planned for the day, so that together, we can make sure you have enough time should you have to rush off somewhere afterwards.

2.  What Location?

Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of a family portrait taken on the beach?  Something at a trendy, historic downtown location?  Maybe one of the many local and state parks?  Not sure?  Not a problem!  This is something that we will discuss in-depth together, determining what your personal vision and style are…. whether it’s traditional or off-the-wall, we’ll try anything once!  And once the location is decided, I’ll know what the best time is for the lighting.

3.  The Lighting!

In photography we have what’s called the ‘golden hour’, which is the first and last hour of sunlight each day.  Typically during these hours, lighting is softer and warmer in hue, unlike in the middle of the day, when the lighting is harsher and more direct.  The golden hour is a photographer favorite for beach photos and most portrait sessions are scheduled for late in the afternoon because of this.

sarasota photography

If your style is a park or urban location, there’s greater flexibility in the available time for portraits because there’s open shade.  What’s that? Think of a lone oak tree in the middle of a field.

(Totally random that I happen to have a photo of a lone tree in a field, don’t you think?!?  This is not my photo!:) )

The shade provided by that tree is open shade.  When a photographer places a subject in the shade and meters for the shadows, the shadowed areas “open up” and look soft and colorful, but the background is often blown out, or over-exposed. A good photographer knows how to use off-camera flash to properly balance the shadow areas with the lighted background behind. Using these techniques, it is possible to photograph at any time of the day! Often with a far more dramatic result.

flash & ambient light

sarasota photographer

Recap - the three most important factors in determining your outdoor photo session are:

Your schedule & availability, what your personal style & preferences are for photos and the best lighting choices to bring the most life, color and vibrancy to your photographs.  If all of that fails you, just leave it to me!  It’s my job to make you and your family look their absolute best.


contact me|back to top|share on facebook

Love your pictures and the information is great!

Tahsina - Dorset Wedding Photographer - November 19, 2010 - 6:24 pm

I love what you did with the autumn trees in the background! Brilliant colours while not stealing the focus of the picture. Well done!

Lisa Zubritsky - October 15, 2010 - 4:42 pm

great tips. can’t you just come over and take pictures for me all the time whenever I need you lol

Alicia - October 7, 2010 - 7:10 pm

Love the scenery!

Jason Northcutt - March 24, 2010 - 9:58 am

Love the information and easy to follow!

Sandra Lemin Dallas Wedding Photography - March 23, 2010 - 6:13 pm

Love your beach work!

Harry Who - San Jose Portrait Photographer - March 20, 2010 - 10:49 am

Dorothy, this is a fantastic, educational article for Portrait Photographers to share with their clients. Thank you for sharing.

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *