Best Time to Shoot Outdoors

As a photographer have you been asked what is the best time to shoot outdoors.  I know that is one question I have been asked on multiple occasions! Many times you will be told “magic hour” is the best time to shoot outside. Magic hour is one of my favorite times to shoot but who am I to tell you it’s the “best?!” Honestly, the only right answer will depend on what kind of light you believe your image needs! Here are a few tips for shooting in different natural light situations.


Magic Hour

Magic Hour (a.k.a Golden Hour) is the hour or two before the sunset. At this time the sun is setting low on the horizon and has that warm glow we love to sit and watch in the evenings! One of my favorite shoots was Justin and Taylor of FIT for their e-session right as the sun was going down in Malibu. (You can see more of their e-session here!)   The light during Magic Hour tends to be a little easier to shoot in because the shadows are less harsh than during the middle of the day. The warm glow is also great on every skin tone! Keep in mind, it’s important turning your subject toward the light to brighten up the face. Move around, magic hour is also a great time to capture a warm lens flare to add another element to your portraits or to play with shapes and create a silhouette!

High Noon

High noon is generally the time of day photographers tell you to not shoot. The sun is high in the sky and creates harsh shadows on the face. Fear not, there are ways to work around that! Maybe you have a particular shoot you want to have higher contrast or you might be at an outdoor party or music festival and you can’t control when you’re shooting.  A few months ago I did a really fun shoot with my good friend, Chriselle Lim, of The Chriselle Factor.   If you don’t know her, make sure to also check her out here!   We shot in the middle of a field right in the middle of the day. Her look is very modern and chic so the contrast of the light is exactly what I needed to pull off this image!

If you can’t avoid shooting midday and want to lighten up the shadows a bit, one quick tip is to look around and see what could be used as a bounce. Are you near a light color building or around a pool? Place your subject near that and watch the light of high noon soften! When I was in the Cayman Islands staying at Kimpton Seafire Resort I used the ocean to my benefit! While we were out on the boat the water worked as my bounce card to fill in the shadows.  One of my other favorite things about shooting mid day are the shadows that are created. Click here for additional tips on using shadows in your photos!

If someone asks you what the best time to shoot outdoors really is, tell them every lighting situation has it’s time and place! Personally, my favorite time to shoot is during Magic Hour. You’ll see this often in my e-session shoots. To me it feels like a romantic and magically time to capture lasting memories.

Stay Inspired,





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Jana Williams

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