What’s the best time of day for a photo session?

August 25, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Professional photographers are sometimes asked about the best time of day for a photo session. The answer: it depends. Different times of day lead to different lighting conditions.

For indoor photos, with controlled artificial lighting, there are fewer factors to consider. Outdoor conditions can still affect the natural ambient light of the room, important to natural light photographers. But in a studio environment, or with portable supplemental lighting on location, the sun, clouds, or time of day are not the determining factor in the best times of day. Now your concern is only when photographer and subject(s) are feeling at their best. As an example, I’m not a morning person, and if it’s been a particularly busy day, I may fade in the afternoon…. I’ve found that 10 am is my sweet spot. Do you function best in the afternoon or evening? That’s great! I’ll schedule a nap so I can be refreshed. If we’re having a family portrait session, we need to consider family members and whether they need a nap, too.

African American woman Outdoor portrait photographyTammie, photographed outdoors in mid-afternoon in August. An assistant held a diffusing panel to soften the harsh light. For outdoor photography, things are much more complicated, but the best time to be photographed depends on the time of year. The magic hour is affected by the sun’s position, which changes daily with the seasons. While 7pm is a great time in the summer, it’s way too dark in the winter. Photographers really like the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset – the so-called golden hours – because the quality of light from the low sun is warm and flattering. Blue hour photography takes place before sunrise and right after sunset, and provides a different type of light. Are you up for the soft light of an early morning session? Or the warm light of a late afternoon session?

Generally, portrait photographers are going to avoid the harsh light of midday when the sun’s position is at its highest. This time of day, regardless of time of year, is particularly difficult, creating unflattering hot spots and harsh shadows... and squinting! Can great photos happen in the middle of the day? Well, yes – it just takes a little thought. We’ll look for a shady location to help block the sun of high noon to help diffuse and soften the light and shadow. Is it an urban location? or under the greenery of a large tree? Your photographer will want to watch their white balance settings to keep skin tones looking natural.

Weather also plays a factor and can give you a little more flexibility in the time of day. A cloudy day makes it easier to work a location, like an open field, that doesn’t provide shade, but your photographer really needs to pay attention to how the light changes their camera settings. On overcast days the sky actually works like a giant softbox, spreading beautiful even light.

Is there an ideal time? Yes, there is… but it depends. That's one of the reasons I want to speak with you before we schedule your portrait session. Together we’ll consider the type of photo session, location, sunrise or sunset times, and more to find a good time just for you.


Women are multi-faceted, and I love helping them share images that show their authentic, beautiful, confident shine! How do you want to be photographed? Let's meet over coffee and talk about it. Contact me: text/call 434-226-0365 or email [email protected]... or schedule a Zoom meeting online here!


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