choosing a date & time for your portrait session

Struggling with when to schedule your photo shoot? Struggle no more. Read on for a few tips that most photographers agree on.

pick the golden hour

I'm a natural light specialist, which means I prefer to shoot primarily outdoors using the sun as my only source. Lots of natural light is the key to getting those magically bright & light photos you see all over Pinterest & prominent wedding magazines. If you capture the natural light during the golden hour, the hour before sunset, your skin takes on that soft & creamy look. There are no harsh shadows & we're not worried about raccoon eyes.

My favorite time to shoot in the summer months is 5:30-7:30pm. We still have plenty of light after the sun actually sets, so we can push this back about 30 minutes & still be safe.

How do you calculate the best time for your photo shoot?

Google sunset time for the day you're hoping to schedule your session. (Make sure your time zone is set correctly! It doesn't hurt to include the zip code of the address.) Since my photo sessions are 2 hours long, take the sunset time you came up with & subtract 2 hours. Viola! Easy peasy. 

If we're shooting somewhere that has a closing time & we have to be off of the property, that's a slightly different story. Subtract 2 hours from the time we need to be gone & there's your answer. 

cloudy days

Does this mean cloudy days don't work for photo shoots? Not at all! The photos will look different, yes, but not in a bad way. If you play with shadows correctly, some magically dramatic photos can be produced. Since clouds drastically decrease the amount of light, we can shoot much earlier in the day.

4:00-6:00pm on cloudy summer day works just fine. A cloudy winter day will probably be earlier.

time of year

Since Daylight Savings is still a thing that exists (I think I might vote against it if it's ever up for debate), the Golden Hour is much earlier in the day. If you're having to take off work, or drive in from out of town, keep that in mind when picking a date! There's also not as much leeway if we are running late. Once the sun sets, it's gone! No more light.

morning photo shoots

On the other end of the spectrum, a morning photo shoot can be an option if planned & executed correctly. Using the same method I mentioned before, Google sunrise time for the day & zip code of your desired location. But, this time, sunrise is basically our start time, ending two hours later. When I say start time, I mean in our first pose & I'm holding the camera to my eye. All the prep work needs to be completed by then–hair, makeup, outfits chosen, travel, etc. The more delayed we are, the greater the chances we'll catch the sun as it's getting too high in the sky. 

My husband & I did a morning engagement session in downtown New Orleans on a weekday. I think we were up at 4am to get dressed & then we had to fight rush hour! That was rough, but our photos are spectacular. 

7:30-9:30am mornings

consider your environment

Don't forget to consider your environment when you're determining a date & location. For example, downtown areas tend to have tall buildings that block the sun. We love shade so this is a good thing! We can start shooting much earlier in the day. On the other hand, if you want photos in a wide open wheat field & nothing is around to cast shade, we need to make sure we hit the sunset just right.