When is the best time of day for outdoor family photos?

David Eklof Photography  |  Vancouver Family Photographer

This is a great question that comes up a lot when I'm booking outdoor sessions for family photos.  In sunny conditions, the best time of day for photos is either in the morning or evening, when the light is soft and more flattering.  And you want to look your best, right?  When it's cloudy out, as it often is in Vancouver, the time of day is not nearly as important.  However, even on cloudy days I find that the quality of light is still better in the mornings and evenings. 

 The Golden Hour- In photography, this is roughly the first hour of light in the morning and last hour of light before sunset.  At this time of day, when the sun is low in the sky, the light has a soft, magical, warm glow.  In contrast, the lighting conditions at midday are intense and harsh, making it a poor time of day to photograph.  The midday sun can create strong highlights and dark shadows on the person's face.  With the overhead direction of the sunlight, this can also create "racoon eyes".  Furthermore, the bright, intense conditions are generally uncomfortable for the person you're photographing and can cause squinty eyes.  

As a way to demonstrate the difference between a photo taken at midday versus one taken during the golden hour, I took the below images at the same location 6 hours apart.  The first photo was taken at 1:30 pm and the second one was taken at 7:30 pm.  As you can see, there is a huge difference in the quality of light between these photos.  The first photo, taken during the intense midday sun, has created harsh shadows on the boy's face and, due to the direction of light coming from directly above, the shadows have given him "racoon eyes".  Whereas, in the second photo his face is evenly lit with beautiful, warm, golden light.  Same boy, same location, same camera, same lens, same aperture (f2.8 if you care), different time of day and with much different results!

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