Best time of day for photos

Best Time of Day for Photos

A common question that I get right before someone books a session with me is, “What’s the best time of day for photos?”


As a photographer, I try to be consistent in my editing. I edit each session the same unless you ask for a little more or give me total creative freedom to be an artist.

(Which I love by the way!)


However, there’s one thing that sometimes really can’t be helped with a look of a photo and that’s the TIME of the day the photo session is captured.


Some photographers only shoot for a very specific hour of the day and that’s it. They may limit themselves to one session per day based on that same golden hour time slot. You have probably heard of golden hour and we’ll go over that more.


I don’t photograph only one time of the day. Why? Because number one, I want to stay affordable. And I can’t financially live on doing just one session a day. I am a full time photographer. This is my full time income. And I don’t just want to photograph at golden hour if your kids are better at a certain time in the morning. So I want to make the time work for your family as well.


But I did want to make a post explaining the difference of light and what you may see sometimes in my work that may appear a little different besides the editing.




Golden hour is a period very shortly after sunrise and shortly before sunset. Photographers love this time of day.


Golden hour is known as the golden hour because the light is less harsh during the sun setting or the sun rising than during the middle of the day. This is because the sun’s rays have further to travel when they are low on the horizon. Because they have more atmosphere to penetrate to get to you (the subject), the light is less intense and is more easily offset by the indirect light that will also hit you. This makes it easier to balance and also looks more flattering.


It also can pose challenges because the lighting changes so quickly during this time. For example, if we are right up against a mountain – that sun may go over the mountain quicker and all of a sudden giving us less golden sunlight and giving us more of the blue hour. I’ll refer to that below as well.


The golden hour time is the hour right after sunrise or the hour right before sunset. These are not necessarily sunset photos. While we may get the sun setting, we may not get those real sunset clouds in the sky. So please make sure to understand, there is a difference in golden hour and sunset photos. In booking a full hour time slot, we may be able to achieve a little of both if you have booked my very last full hour session of the day. As I am photographing all the way until sunset. If you do not want the sunset look at all after the sun goes down, you will want to book within the first 9o minutes before sunset, that way you are getting the full golden hour look.


Below are examples of my work taken at Golden Hour. Also, notice the direction of the sun. Usually with golden hour, you get the golden sun hitting your hair just a bit as it’s about to go down over the horizon. This is of course, if you are out in the open and not hidden within trees.



Blue Hour is the time that precedes golden hour. So for many, this is the sunset time. And we don’t have much of it before losing light. Even though it’s call blue hour, it’s not really an hour. Depending on the location, it can really be minutes. So we have to move quickly to get those sunset photos. If you are wanting these sunset photos, you want to book my last thirty minute time spot, as I do photograph all the way up until sunset. If you book a full hour, you will get some golden hour and some blue hour most likely.


Since the sunlight is pretty much completely gone during this time, your photos don’t have the golden sun look and may have a more bluish hue to them. So if you are right up against a mountain and the sun goes over the mountain, while sunset time may be recorded as later in certain weather apps, it can actually be earlier being that the sun goes over the mountain and we don’t have that sunlight anymore. Both golden hour and blue hour can both be equally pretty, because with blue hour, we get more of the sunset. So for some of my clients, they will choose my last full hour session to get the best of both lighting situations.


Below are some examples of my work with blue hour. In fact, in the maternity session you see, you will have seen them up above in the golden hour example, because they chose to do the full hour getting both lighting situations.

A Blue Hour vs Golden Hour Comparison


Here is a engagement session booked the last hour of the day. The first part of their session timing was golden hour. With golden hour, you get that golden background look with also some sun shining on top of the head giving a hair light. With the blue hour, towards the end of our time together, the background isn’t golden at all and there is no light on the subjects hairline. Again, if you want your full session golden, don’t choose my last time spot of the day. If you like the blue hour – choose my last session of the day (although blue hour may only be the very end of the session depending on location and duration of the session).



Now as you can see, the reason most of these photos are out in the open that I have shown examples of is because I wanted to show you what happens when in the direct light of those time frames.


If there are trees, or structures, that can change everything. The sun is beautiful showing through the trees a couple of hours before sunset or in the morning as the sun is rising up in the sky. So there are plenty of factors in all of this that may change the way light may look.


Does this mean we can ONLY photograph during the times mentioned above?


I don’t open my schedule for when lighting is the worst, which is the late morning or early afternoon. So basically the light gets worse as you approach noon from either direction (sunrise or sunset). But I am still photographing a few hours before sunset and in the earlier morning time, especially when there are trees and structures at the location we choose. That can play a big factor as well. I try to help you with location based on the time you need for your session. However, you have to know that most of my images that I am known for are during that last hour prime time (with a little mix of golden hour and few minutes of sunset). So if your kids are cranky in the evening, well, it may work better to not be at that time. So just know there is a trade off. It doesn’t mean we won’t get great photos, but the lighting may look a little different. The same is true for if it turns out to be a cloudy day.


In fact, here are some of examples of my work that are NOT at that last hour before sunset. These photos were photographed at a range of 10:00 in the morning to 3:00 in the afternoon. And in the desert, we can even get that dusty desert look a couple of hours before sunset if needed. So have a look at some of these and you will probably be able to tell the lighting is a little different based on the sun’s position in the sky, but they still make great photos.

In saying all of that, the last hour of the day is my most sought after time spot. It’s always my first to go during a busy season of Spring and Fall especially. So, if you are absolutely certain that’s what you want, you need to book as soon as you know it. If you aren’t sure what time to book, it’s easy to just Google the sunset time for your city for the date you want to schedule. This will help you decide on the correct time. Also, keep in mind, if you choose a mountain time spot – the sun tends to go over the mountain at least 15 minutes earlier than sunset.

Now that we covered that...Let's Do This!