One of the biggest questions I get asked is “what time will our session be?” and I think its so important to talk about the what & how of why specific time frames are chosen!
You may be asking, “well, can’t we do a session at any time in the day?” And while the answer is technically yes, there are several great reasons why you shouldn’t have your pictures taken at any ‘ol time of day!
The biggest reason really is what the light looks like through out the day. When you think about light, the first thing to think about is “when I go outside, what is the time of day that I have to squint the most?”. It’s pretty easy for most of us to think about the afternoon, usually from about 11am-2pm as the brightest light of the day, and easily the squintiest time of day as well. Now, imagine trying to be photographed without sunglasses on & keeping your eyes open through that time, are your eyes already watering?
A further discouraging reason to not have your session during these times, but even extending before & after is the position of the sun above your heads. Throughout parts of the day, when the sun is in various positions in the sky, the light will either be complementary on your face and skin or it will be unflattering. As we all know from childhood, light creates shadows. I think we all grew up chasing our shadows down the sidewalk. Now, consider the fact that your facial structures create shadow and in harsh light intensifies things like under-eye circles on men & women and in men who have bald heads it will create an illusion of their head blending in with the sky due to the brightness of the light on it, just to name a few.
Now, I know originally I talked about 11am-2pm but really, this extends much further before and after due to the above mentioned and I’m willing to bet you came here because you’re thinking “Caitlin, tell me what time I will look the best in” and you know what, you’re darn tootin’, I’m going to tell you that already!
There really are 2 ideal times of day to do sessions where you will look your absolute best, and so will your surroundings and that is your golden hours in the morning and evening. I have found that, while both morning & evening are beautiful, evening golden hour is much easier and beautiful to work with. The reason for that is simple. As the sun is rising, while you still have gorgeous soft, filtered light, it turns very quickly into that more harsh early morning light we want to stay away from. If morning is your only opportunity, I suggest a mini session if possible, or choosing a location where open shade is available easily once the sun is higher in the sky.
For sunrises, I recommend meeting somewhere between 30-60 minutes before the sun will actually rise so that you can catch the light before it’s above the horizon line; and this is also an important thing to consider depending on your chosen location and whether or not you will need to hike in, or if there will be trees or mountains blocking the horizon line.
For sunsets, I recommend meeting about 90 minutes before sunset. Now, this will always adjust depending on the location we’ve chosen for your session, however, 90 minutes beforehand usually gives us plenty of time to walk in to the area we want to shoot in, get some beautiful pictures in open shaded areas and then be ready for golden hour.
Now, being in Arizona, that means that we have some pretty sweltering months that most people won’t want to do their session in, which is completely understandable, however it doesn’t make it impossible, especially if you follow these guidelines for planning your session with your photographer. And, ultimately, your photographer will know these rules of light so allowing them to set the time that they most like to work in is always the best rule to follow!
Let me know what questions you have, or what you thought about this post in the comments below!