What time of day is ideal for photos? Good question! Actually, it’s a great question! Everything from outfit choices to coordinating schedules depends on the time of day you’ll be having your photos taken.
So, let me start out by saying that this blog is generally considered industry standard. However, if you are going with a photographer that is greatly outside my style or has drastically different preferences- you’ll want to consult with them. For me, and the majority of photographers, we follow some general rules for the time of day to hold photo sessions.
‘Golden Hour’, I’m sure this name sounds familiar. Golden Hour is 1-2 hours before sunset. Obviously, this varies on what month and season we are in. In Summer, it is later in the evening, usually around 6-8pm. In Fall it is anywhere from 4-6. Golden Hour has really special and unique light. It is softer than daylight but no where near dark. If you’ve ever watched the incredible sunset as you drive or ran outside while making dinner to see a rainbow of colors in the clouds, you are likely in Golden Hour. Colorado is known for it’s breathtaking sunsets. So, I get spoiled often watch the magic in the sky during this time.
I like to meet up with my clients on location about 2- 2 1/4 hours before sunset depending on what type of session it is. For family’s with littles – we can usually move it up or down slightly depending on what time they need to eat dinner, get to bed, etc . . . For engaged couples- I like to use the full window of golden hour when possible.
Now, a common misconception is that once Golden Hour is over the light is gone. This is not the case. After Golden Hour comes Blue Hour. This is when the glow of the sun still remains after the sun goes down. Things are cooler (hence, the name blue) and there is still light around that we can use for your photos. Both lights are beautiful- especially when we get to see the difference of the light tones on the mountains. Ideally, I like to use both. About 1 – 1/2 hours of golden hour and 20-30 minutes of blue hour is usually perfect for my style. This also gives you a variety of photos!
Now, on the flip side- the sunrise works similarly. The difference is that blue hour precedes Golden Hour. Blue hour is the 1-2 hours before the sun rises and Golden Hour in the morning is the 1-2 hours after it rises.
Lighting is the main and most important component when it comes to photography. Lighting is everything. Without good lighting your photos will lack proper contrast, shadows, highlights, and depth. Read my Lighting over Location for a more detailed look at how lighting effects everything in your photos.
The exception to the Golden Hour rule is for in-home lifestyle sessions. For this, I aim for the most comfortable time for the family, so long as their home allows for plenty of natural light to enter in.
Keep this timing in mind when planning your next session. Luckily, for the most part, Golden Hour usually falls shortly after most get off work.
Warning: If I am your photographer, once that sun gets in just right position and is glowing and all creamy, I will likely start getting extremely excited! I mean possible talking too fast and maybe squealing slightly. It’s passion, guys. Passion. I love what I do, I can’t contain it.
So, now that you know what the ideal time is for photos, you can plan outfits, take travel time into consideration, choose your location, and coordinate your schedules.
Here’s a collection of some of my favorite Golden + Blue Hour Portraits. Enjoy!