What's the Best Time of Day to Book Your Photo Shoot?

Not all natural light is created equal, and photographers end up working in not-so-ideal light all the time. Snappr Photographer Francois Whyte shares his best practices.

Natural light is the source of lots of misconceptions when it comes to photography. So what are your best and worst options to get the best light for your outdoor photos? Here are some explanations and some tips on how to make the most out of each of them.

Avoid Midday Outdoor Photography

Very often I have clients booking me in the middle of the day thinking having the sun high in the sky will get them better results. It’s unfortunately a myth. The middle of the day gives off one of the least flattering effects of light there is. A sun high in the sky will create high contrast on people’s face with harsh shadows and highlights.

Now, what if, for personal or professional reasons, you don’t have a choice and have to do your shoot in the middle of the day?

Here’s a couple of tricks for you to consider:

  • Book your shoot at a place with lots of shade. Being in the shade will make your face evenly lit and considerably boost the quality of your photos.
  • Book it on a cloudy day. Clouds are fantastic as they act as a natural diffuser for the sun’s light. While the mood of the photo might look a bit different on a cloudy day, you’re at least sure to get some nicely lit shots, which is always better and more flattering. This option is obviously hard to predict though.

Aim for Golden Hour Outdoor Photography

Photographers swear by the golden hour. It is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last one before sunset. The sun is then low in the sky, bathing everything in a warm-orange glow. It gives a fantastic mood to any photo and offers plenty of options to play around for more creative shoots.

If you’re aiming at a more ‘daylight’ mood, for professional photos for example, it is possible to plan your shoot shortly after (in the morning) or before (in the evening) the golden hour. This way the sun will be low enough in the sky to get a soft light but high enough to get a brighter image.

To know what time the golden hour is in your area, refer to this website and find your location on the map – or simply ask your photographer.

Something to Consider: Blue Hour Portraiture

Less known, the blue hour is the hour that comes directly before the golden hour in the morning, and directly after in the evening. It’s that time when the sun is not visible in the horizon but close enough to light the sky. It usually gives a blue glow that really contrasts with the golden hour. It’s the softest light you can get as it’s the only available light from the sun and is completely indirect. 

That said, it can also be a bit tricky to get good results as there is not as much available light to work with. On the whole though, it’s perfect for a very intimate feel.

Francois W

Snappr Photographer