Often, when people contact me to book a photoshoot for their family or child, one of the first items we discuss is what time would be best for the session. I’m happy to photograph portraits at any time from sunrise to sunset, so, which time should you opt for and why? For the natural, relaxed and timeless style of photography I look to achieve i’m searching for light that is soft, warm and directional but without too much contrast. You don’t need much light to have great light, and there’s a couple of times in the day when the light is at its best.
Sunrise occurs first thing in the morning and is generally combined with the mist and dew rising as the sun heats up. This time of day creates a beautiful, soft atmosphere for your portraits and it’s one of my favourite times for a session. However, as the sun rises quickly (often within 30-45 minutes) these sessions often take place very early in the morning so may not be ideal if you have younger children.
Sunset occurs during the last hour of daylight and is generally much warmer and brighter than sunrise. It’s during sunset that you get the beautiful golden orange glow around subjects that you may have seen in photographs online and this is why sunset is often referred to as the ‘golden hour’. I love sunset and given the choice would photograph all of my family and child portraits at this time. During the winter sunset can be as early as 3-4pm which is ideal, although in summer the longer evenings mean sunset can occur as late as 9-10pm.
Dusk is the couple of hours just before sunset and is a really family friendly time of day. By this time in the day the sun is starting to fall and the light is getting warmer but there’s generally a lovely contrasting blue tone to the sky. In my opinion, this is one of the most underrated times of day for a portrait session. Many families also head indoors for tea during dusk meaning venues are typically quieter – bonus!
Mid morning is probably one of the most popular times of day for a portrait session as its when most families are up, ready and awake for their session. By this time the sun will have risen, but will still have direction and not be too strong.
Noon is generally a time of day best avoided. At this point of the day, the sun is directly over head which can lead to harsh lighting, strong shadows and otherwise less flattering light. If the session must be held during midday, I would typically look for a location that provides plenty of shaded areas, or with plenty of trees and buildings to diffuse and soften the suns rays.
As you can see, the time of day you choose to have your portrait shoot can make a big difference to the look and feel of the final images. I hope this guide goes some way to helping you make your decision but if you have any questions or would like some more guidance – please drop me a message or give me a call.