As a natural light photographer, I really try to educate my clients on the best time of day for their session. When you email me to inquire about a date, I always reply with the time of day even if it is months in advance. Thanks to the almanac, I can get a pretty good sense of when sunset will be and give a good judge on the time.
I always tell clients the best time to start is an hour and a half before sunset. If it is cloudy, that means you won’t have the sun in your pictures but we will have enough time to get pictures done before the sun goes away. If there is a cloudless sky, we can take our time and get all the pictures we need plus those dreamy sunset pictures at the end of the day.
If you went against advice and decided to take pictures before that timeline, you would find the sun to be your enemy. Some of us, like my husband, have really sensitive eyes and squinting is unpreventable. I have pretty hardy eyes and I do really well at keeping them open which is a benefit for my job since I can’t wear sunglasses and take pictures. If you are out taking pictures in the bright sun, you are likely to have some people squinting. There are options with posing to have them turn away from the sun but the white sand and sparkly water still aggravate the squinter’s eyes. The only time of year I would say you could get away with an early morning shoot would be Fall/Winter. The sun isn’t so overpowering during those times of year here in the panhandle.
Speaking of the time of year, it does change how your pictures will look. Summer has the most brilliant sunlight. When I say brilliant it can also mean overpowering. The absolute best images in the middle of summer occur very close to sunset. The sun stays so high for so long that when if finally starts to descend, people’s eyes start to relax, the gulf offers a little breeze to help with the heat and you can see the images get softer and prettier with the sunsetting. In Fall and Spring, the sun isn’t as high in the sky and the air is a little cooler so we can stay out on the beach a little longer without people starting to melt. October and November have to be some of my favorite months because the wildflowers bloom and the sky is so gorgeous during a Fall sunset. I haven’t quite figured out why but I always come away from a shoot in those months aching to see them on the screen. Winter has it’s own unique flavor as the sunset casts a yellow glow across the beach. This glow really only happens in winter and I always call it the winterlight.
Each season offers a different opportunity for pictures but the rules of when to start is always the same…an hour and a half before sunset.