Pixel Dreams Blog | Andre Toro Photography

What's The Best Time Of Day For Outdoors Family Photos?

That's such a great question. We get sunlight for many hours in a day yet Professional photographers are obsessed with a specific window of time that takes place twice a day, it's called the Golden Hour! During that time the light is precious, soft, and flattering. Today, I'll share with you my passion for the GOLDEN HOUR, the BLUE HOUR, and what would be a good plan B if you can't make the prime time work. Let's get started!

What's The Golden Hour?

My heart would answer that it is that MAGICAL time of the day that has superpowers to make people and places look beautiful. The scientific explanation says that the golden hour is defined as "the period of daytime shortly after sunrise or before sunset, during which daylight is redder and softer than when the Sun is higher in the sky". So it's basically the ~60 min before sunset and the ~60 min after sunrise. For photographers like myself, who only uses natural light, this is what we call prime time. It's our obsession. We live and breath for the golden hour.

2020 Summer Family Photos Boston b (31 of 40)

There is something poetic about the golden hour, there is so much hope that comes with a sunrise or sunset. It's the start of the day or the end of a journey. It's poetic by nature. It also accentuates the beauty of Mother Nature, the sky puts on a show with powerful golden colors or dramatic clouds. It's an epic and inspiring hour of the day where magic happens.

Duxbury Beach Family Photo Session -11

What's The Biggest Surprise After The Golden Hour? ~ The BLUE Hour

The best part of booking a sunset session is that when you though your heart had experienced it all and that the magic unfolded was unprecedented, then you get surprised by what happens next. Mother Nature brings on a delightful and unique light, it's called the Blue Hour.

Here is the formal definition "the blue hour is the period of twilight when the Sun is at a significant depth below the horizon and residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue shade, which differs from the one visible during most of a clear day, which is caused by Rayleigh scattering".

In artistic terms, the Blue Hour gives a soft indirect light that is so flattering on people. Professional photographers love it! We are always surprised how the crowds live the most epic locations after the sun is gone. For us, this gorgeous blue light is also prime time! These are delicious minutes that are a hidden secret. We embrace this light and magic happens.  If we face the subjects to the light, your heart will explode. They will be light up so beautifully. 

Shallan - Andre Toro Photography 2020-39

What's A Good Plan B?

Sometimes booking a sunrise or sunset session is not an option. That's OK. A professional family photographer will be able to use ANY light and create magic. The Golden and Blue Hour are the photographer's favorites, but just like a musician who has a favorite song, in a concert Bono will perform the entire album! The same happens with professional family photographers, we thrive in prime light yet we're committed and passionate artists. In my case I'm passionate about human connection and emotive storytelling above all. A great family photographer will surprise you with gorgeous family portraits regardless of the time of the day.

All the photos below were taken during mid-early afternoon on a bright sunny day.  How did ATP make it work?

Blocking the light

This is SO important. If your photo session will take place when the sun is too high in the sky, shooting in a location with tons of trees/buildings/elements to block the light is perfect! We diffuse the light as much as we want and we play with it. You'll be surprised at how the light changes when you block it, it gets softer and creamier. It's so lovely when diffused. 

Palmira P - Andre Toro Photography 2020-6

What if the location is an open field with NO trees?

It happens. Even if you have trees, the entire session can't take place in the same spot. In candid family photo sessions, we get to explore the location and that means that there will be times when the sun is still high and we have nothing to block it with. There are many tricks to make it work. Here are my favorite 2:

  • Shoot from above

By doing this the photographer will block the light herself. It creates magic light. The most tender and adorable portraits take place laying down in the ground, snuggling. 

Fall Family Photo Sessions Boston-Oct-15-2020-06-53-31-46-PM

  • Look for the right angle

In an open field the professional photographer has 360 degrees to explore and play with. We will move around the subject until the light is flattering and the shadows are in the right place. It's doable! You can have amazing moments captured with bright sun and no clouds in the sky.

Palmira P - Andre Toro Photography 2020-7

So, what's THE BEST time for outdoors family photos?

Without a doubt, the Golden Hour takes the 1st place. Depending on the season the time of the day changes. This is my favorite tool to calculate when the golden hour will be. Photographers start the sessions 60-90min before sunset and approx 20 min before sunrise. 

In Summer, this means, that a sunset family photo session will start around 6.30-7pm EST. 

Andre Toro Photography - Carissas Beach Session 2020-17

In Winter, a sunset session will be around 3-3.30pm EST.

Winter Snow Boston Family Photogapher-8

And how about the BEST SEASON for family pictures?

If you're intrigued about what's the BEST SEASON for family pictures, you can read all about it in this blog. Every season has its charm! Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter have its signature look and feel. It's about figuring out what's the best season for your family!

before and AFTER-3

I hope today's blog helps you understand everything about LIGHT and its impact on photos! At the end of the day, professional photographers will chase the available natural light and we will create magic.

If you have a white canvas and you can design THE perfect photo session for your family, I would recommend to start by choosing the best photographer for your family, then choosing your favorite season, then choosing the best time of the day (ideally the golden hour! it's SO worth it), and finally choosing gorgeous outfits that will enhance the portraits. Have fun and remember that Family Photography is all about embracing and celebrating your family's essence!




Andre Toro is an award wining family photographer based in Lexington, MA. She calls her style Real Art Photography, which she defines as Fine Art inspired by candid moments. Andre is a passionate soul, obsessed with human connection, and emotive storytelling. She believes love is raw, messy, and beautiful. She specializes in Family, Maternity, Newborn, and Birth Photography. To inquiry about booking a photo session, please contact her at andretorophoto@gmail.com 


Get to know me and my work!

Topics: Family Photography

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