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Photo Tips

The Best Time to Schedule Portrait Sessions

July 10, 2024

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In one of my recent mentoring sessions, a student mentioned something that caught my attention. She said she allows her clients to book their sessions at any time of the day, thinking it made her “flexible” and provided excellent service. While I appreciate her perspective, my opinion differs slightly.

The average client doesn’t know much about photography. What they do know is that they want amazing photos, and that’s why they hire us. As photographers, we understand that good light can tremendously affect photos. While there are tricks to get consistent photos even when the light isn’t ideal, there are also many limitations.

To serve our clients best, we must educate them about the importance of great light and recommend the ideal time for taking photos.

There’s nothing like the golden hour. The glowy, dreamy images captured during that soft golden hour light can’t be duplicated at noon when the sun is harsh.

I always want what’s best for my clients. Sometimes, that means not being “flexible” with them to ensure they have great photos.

So, when is the best time of day to take photos? When is that “golden hour”?

Golden hour is the period shortly after sunrise or before sunset.

So, when should you schedule your session to shoot during the golden hour? Well, it depends…

1. How long are your sessions?

My family sessions are 60 minutes long, so I always schedule them to begin 90 minutes before sunset. This buffer time accounts for any delays or unexpected events. When working with families and young children, it’s crucial to have this buffer because kids can be unpredictable.

My engagement sessions are two hours long, as my couples usually bring more than one outfit. I schedule these sessions exactly two hours before sunset, providing ample shooting time and breaks for outfit changes.

  • For 60-90 minute sessions, schedule the session 90 minutes before sunset.
  • For two-hour sessions, schedule it two hours before sunset (no extra buffer time needed as it’s already included!).

2. Where is the session taking place?

Technically, sunset occurs when the sun falls behind the horizon line. While you can easily check sunset times online using a sunset calculator, different locations can affect when the sun actually hides and you start losing light. Locations with tall trees, buildings, or hills might get darker earlier than the official sunset time. Anytime the sun is blocked by environmental objects, it affects the available light! If your session is in a place with tall buildings or trees, schedule it earlier.

However, if your session is in an open location with no environmental obstructions:

Pro tip: Try to only schedule sessions in locations you have worked at or toured before. This way, you won’t have any surprises on the session day regarding horizon lines and sun blockage.

Question:

What do you do when working with a family with very young children who can’t stay up until 7:00 PM when the light is ideal?

Since I work with families often, I encounter this problem quite a bit! While light is a major priority, I prefer to avoid photographing cranky kids and stressed-out parents.

In such scenarios, I intentionally choose a spot with tall trees and lots of shade, knowing that my golden hour window will occur earlier than in an open field. I can also use the trees to diffuse the harsher light earlier in the session.

Final Thoughts:

Remember, the key to great photos is excellent light, and as photographers, it’s our job to guide our clients towards the best possible conditions. By educating them and planning carefully, we can ensure they get the stunning images they dream of. So, next time you book a session, think about the timing and location – your clients will thank you when they see the results!

xoxo More

PS:

If you’re eager to learn more about creating magic using natural light, my Photography for Beginners course is perfect for you! It will guide you through the basics of manual mode, teach you how to adjust your settings for different lighting conditions, and help you gain full control over your photography. Discover the joy of creating stunning images by harnessing the power of your camera. Check out the course and start your journey to becoming a confident photographer today!

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I'm More, and I'm so happy you're here. This blog a journal about my sessions, photography tips, travels,  and style. Stay a while and say hello!

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