brother and sister hugging on the beach during sunset

The best time of day for outdoor family photos


As the weather gets nicer in New York City, more and more families are inquiring about scheduling their photo sessions. I thought I’d share some advice about what’s the best time of day for outdoor family photos as well as tips on how to prepare.

The best time of day for family photos is 1-2 hours after sunrise or before sunset.

Photographers refer to this time as “golden hour”. In my opinion this is the best time of day for an outdoor family photo session. This is when the sun is low on the horizon creating warm and beautiful light, perfect for portraits. As opposed to having your family photos taken at the height of noon, this can cast heavy shadows creating what we call “raccoon eyes” and blown out highlights on skin tones.

Mom dad and baby during a sunset beach session

The next best option for outdoor family photos is first thing in the morning.

If your children are most happy in the morning and are early risers, a morning session can work as well. With a little planning and preparation in advance, this time of day can be just a pretty as golden hour.

What if golden hour doesn’t work for your family?

If neither sunrise or sunset work for you and your family then I would suggest finding a great location that has a lot of shade. This can be at a park with a lot of trees, or even tall buildings if you like an urban setting. Choosing midday and your location can greatly impact the success of the shoot and the overall look and feel of the images. Also, keep in mind that your images may not be consistent with the images your photographer has in his/her portfolio. Just something to think about when deciding.

Tips on how to prepare for your outdoor family photo session

  • Push nap time for later in the dayIf your kiddos still nap, you may want to push nap time later in the day to ensure that they are well rested.
  • Plan on bringing snacks and water– If your session is during dinner time plan on bringing snacks or have dinner before the session. Showing up on an empty stomach will only make your children (and adults) cranky and not such a great photo experience.
  • Styling is important– Check out my Family Style Guide for help on what to wear. Communicate with your photographer about outfit options that will be best for the location.
  • Bring extra layers-If your session is during the cooler months where temperatures fluctuate, you might want to bring a few layering options for you and your children. This can be a cardigan a pretty scarf, or even a hat.
  • Prepare your children in advance– If you have older children, let them know a few days in advance that they will take part in a photo session. Furthermore, build it up as a fun event so that they can look forward to it. Let them know the importance of the images and how they can enjoy that time and have fun. If all else fails, you can offer an incentive like giving them their favorite treat after the shoot.

Most importantly don’t stress . Trust your photographer and fully immerse yourself and enjoy your family- that will come through in your images.

Schedule Your Family Photo Session

Want to schedule your family photo session? If you are in or around the New York City area let’s chat!

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