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Best Time of Day to Take People Photos

Ballantyne family photographers

Taking really great pictures requires you to pay attention to the sun and how it illuminates the faces of your subjects. “Soft light” is typical of sunlight with very gentle shadows. Soft light reduces or removes wrinkles when photographing faces; that’s especially important for older subjects. “Hard light” is characterized by strong directional lighting that causes deep shadows to appear. Those shadows can be very dramatic and might be something you want. Sometimes you will have to have your subjects face away from the sun. Why? Because harsh sunlight will cause people to frown or squint and most children just won’t cooperate while looking directly into the sun.


"Sunlight changes throughout the day offers savvy photographers the opportunity to create unique images."

The sunlight in the early morning has a golden cast to it which adds a lot of interest to any photograph. You can use the sun to highlight low shadows across your subjects. You can try placing your subject with his/her back to the sun; this is called “backlighting”. Pay attention to the time, because the light quickly turns from a golden orange to a white as the sun rises.

M I D - D A Y

Mid-day sunlight, although very dramatic, causes heavy shadows on people’s faces.Maybe you want “edgy” images with strong shadows and then photos taken at noon can be the perfect choice. Just because it’s noon doesn’t mean you have to put your camera away. You can position your friends under a tree: there is softer light under the shade of the tree. For a special touch, place your subjects in the shade of a tall building across the street from a building that’s in direct sunlight. The sunlight bouncing off that building can be used to illuminate your subjects across the street.


Photographers call the hour before sunset the “golden hour” because it produces wonderful results when photographing people and their environment, just like the light in the morning (except the sun is setting). After the sun has set, the “blue hour” begins. That’s when you get rich blue background colors. During this time, you will need to use a flash when photographing people. This combination of dramatic lighting and flash can create terrific photographs.


Weather also plays a role in determining the best time of day to take a picture of a friend or family member. A cloudy day can soften the brightness of the sun at noon and produce a pleasing image no matter what the time is. In fact, many professionals like the soft light caused by overhead clouds. So, don’t put your camera away just because it might be cloudy outdoors. A gentle rain gives you the chance to dress the kids up in raincoats with umbrellas during the noon hours. Snow is even more exciting with those snow flakes coming down. don’t use your flash when it’s snowing as it will flash will blow out the snowflakes in the foreground.
Modern cameras do a terrific job of taking properly exposed photograph on the “automatic” or “program Mode” that new cameras are set to when you open the box. Just get outside and start shooting and keep those memories for years to come.


Williams Photography of Fort Mill, South Carolina, LLC is a professional photography company specializing individual and family portraits along with engagement, bridal, and wedding photography in the greater Charlotte, North Carolina area.

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