What Time of Day is Best for Outdoor Family Photos?

Have you been wondering what the best time of day is to get your outdoor family photos taken in Colorado Springs? There are a lot of factors that go into what time is best for outdoor family photos, but lighting is EVERYTHING. The best lighting depends on your exact location, the time of year, etc. In general though, many outdoor family photographers (including myself), prefer to shoot during golden hour.  

So, what is golden hour? Golden hour is the time shortly after sunrise in the morning or shortly before sunset in the evening. This is when the sun is low above the horizon. When the sun is low, the sunlight rays have to penetrate a greater distance through the atmosphere, which greatly reduces the intensity of the direct light. In addition, more of the blue light is scattered, so the light appears more reddish and warm. Because the lighting is diffused and less harsh, much of the illumination comes from the sky and not just from the sun. In other words, we can get enhanced colors, less harsh highlights and shadows, and a warmer/softer look. When talking about golden hour, the term hour is used figuratively, because it does not always last an hour. It really depends on your exact location and time of year.

Why do you only do outdoor sessions during golden hour?

I choose to only do my outdoor sessions around golden hour. If we were to shoot in the middle of the day, we would get harsh highlights and shadows, which is especially important on your beautiful face. I love those magical backlit photos that have a dreamy look to them. If we shoot at a different time of the day, it will not look like my other images that you may have fallen in love with on my website or social media. 

While I love some of the dramatic flares you can get during golden hour, my absolute favorite moment in golden hour is right as the sun is kissing the mountain and starts to disappear.  You get this beautiful, subtle haze, long shadows and it’s not too bright. It gives a dreamy glow, but it only lasts for a few minutes. I always want to make sure we get to our spot well before this time so that we have time to warm up and get other shots before this magical moment.

During my evening sessions, I will always go past when the sun dips behind the horizon and will often go into blue hour, as long as the kids and parents are still up for it. Blue hour is when the sun is at a significant depth below the horizon and the residual, indirect sunlight takes on a blue shade. This gives a whole different look and the sky can turn some pretty amazing colors during this time.

How do you figure out the best time to meet?

When I am location scouting, I will always use my Sun Seeker app to see exactly where and what time the sun will hit the horizon. In Colorado, we tend to lose light more quickly in areas when we are right up against the mountains, so I want to make sure we have time to get those backlit images with rays of light and flares before the sun dips behind the mountains. In general, I like to start my sessions about 1-1.5 hours before sunset. However, it changes slightly depending on how close we are to the mountains, how far we need to walk to our spot and if there will be anything obstructing the light such as tall trees.

What if my kids cannot stay up until golden hour?

This is a question I get a lot, as young children are my absolute favorite to photograph. While I wish I had more control over natural lighting, there is just no way around it. Consider adjusting your child’s nap time leading up to the photos. You might be surprised at how happy your child can be past their bedtime, as our sessions are focused on play and cuddles. Or, perhaps a session in the Fall would work better for your family when the sun sets earlier, than a session in the middle of the Summer when the sun sets super late. Just know that Fall sessions are extremely popular, so it might be harder to get on my calendar if you are waiting until the last minute. If you still don’t think your child can handle a later than normal evening, I might suggest you book an indoor family session with me instead. These sessions take place in the middle of the day, in your own home. We can still capture the magical bond you have with your children, but in your personal setting. Sometimes, those photos hold even more meaning when looking back on them.

Why do you prefer evening sessions over morning sessions for outdoor family photos in Colorado Springs?

Sessions in the morning can be beautiful and I don’t mind waking up early at all. However, the biggest reason I prefer evening sessions over morning sessions is because of our location. The mountains are to the west and the sun sets in the west. Because I love backlit images, our morning sessions would not have the beautiful mountain backdrop. This is not to say I will not shoot in the morning, but it is something to keep in mind when talking about locations and the look you are going for.

I hope this post helps you understand the importance of timing and lighting for outdoor family photos. In the end, I just want you to be happy with the way your photos turn out, and lighting plays a very important role in that!

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