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What Is the Best Time for Outdoor Photography?

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

golden hour photography, two kids hugging on the beach, delaware family photographer

As a Delaware family photographer, I spend an awful lot of time taking photos outside. And during the summer, you'll most often find me taking family photos out on the beach!

You can't beat the beauty of Delaware beaches.

Part of my job is guiding my clients towards planning the perfect session, and the first question everyone asks is "what is the best time for outdoor photos?"

The answer to that question depends on two things: your personal aesthetic preference and what works best for the youngest members of your family.

But let's talk about your best options and what sets different session times apart.

What Is Golden Hour?

Family playing on the beach in Lewes, Delaware
Golden hour, 5:00pm start time, Lewes, Delaware

If you've talked with a photographer or photography enthusiast for any amount of time, they've probably mentioned golden hour.

But what is golden hour?

Golden hour refers to a period of time just after sunrise or just before sunset. At that time, the sun's rays are dispersed as golden beams of light, which gives your photography some gorgeous effects.

Another beautiful thing about golden hour is you aren't dealing with harsh lighting that can throw one part of your face into shadow and the other part into overexposed brightness.

What Is Blue Hour?

son and father playing in the ocean, delaware family photographer
Blue hour, 8am start time in Bethany Beach, Delaware

Most people who have had even a casual conversation with a photography hobbyist likely has heard of golden hour. But blue hour is not quite as commonly known!

Blue hour is that time when the sun dips right below the horizon (or right before it rises above the horizon in the morning), so you don't have those golden hues, but you get the start of the sunset look to the skyline.

The benefits to blue hour are more colorful photos and vibrant skies (in golden hour, the sky might not have a lot of detail in it). The other nice thing is you will not have any squinting! With golden hour, the sun can sometimes feel bright in your eyes (not as bad as the middle of the day, but it can still be harsh), but you generally don't have that issue with blue hour.

Is Golden Hour the Best Time to Shoot?

So now you know what golden and blue hour is. That's the best time to shoot, right?

In theory? Yes. In practice?

No. Not if you're a Delaware family photographer.

Because for better or worse, Delaware family photography includes people. And no amount of dreamy sunshine can make you (or your kids) a morning person. Also, getting everyone together at prime dinner time to go take photos isn't the best, either.

You have to consider the logistics of your vacation, not just when the lighting will look best.

So as a photographer in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, here are my official recommendations on times to schedule your family photography.

For the Early Risers

Best Time for a Photo Session in the Morning: Starting between 8:00am and 9:00am

While I am not a morning person myself, I certainly respect people that are. And if your two year old is a morning person, then that's when we're taking photos.

Some kids really thrive in the morning. And if they're young enough, maybe they'll be too sleepy to be agitated by some stranger singing "Baby Shark" at them at 8:00am. If you're the type of family that likes to get up and get going, this time range will work well for you.

rehoboth beach photographer, father throwing his son in the air
8:45am start time, Rehoboth Beach

Another nice thing about morning photography? You're going to have really even lighting. No squinting, no overly dramatic sunbeams. Mornings can give you a really nice canvas to get some amazing photos.

For People Who Work Better in the Evenings

Best Time for Outdoor Portrait Photography in the Evening: Starting between 5:00pm to 6:00pm

family with a dog playing on the beach in lewes, delaware
5:30pm start time, Lewes, Delaware. However, the skies were particularly dramatic because it was raining all day, so we got the blue hour look at golden hour.

I live for outdoor portrait photography in the evenings. You get the opportunity to take some really magical photos at that time. If your kids hit their stride later in the day, then the evening will work best for them as well.

Plus. you can bribe them with "if you behave, we'll get ice cream after this!" and that always works, every time.

For golden hour, I start at 5:00pm. For blue hour, I start at 6:00pm. If you want to Hannah Montana this and get the best of both worlds, we start at 5:30.

The Best Time for Outdoor for Photography is Different for Every Family

Father with two daughters on the Lewes, Delaware beach
9am start time, Herring Point in Cape Henlopen

At the end (or the beginning) of the day, the best time for outdoor photography is whenever your family feels most comfortable and confident. You want everyone, from the littlest one who needs naptime, to the oldest one who wants to be home at a certain time, to feel their best. If there's one thing I learned as a Delaware family photographer, it's that every family is different, and it's completely up to you when you feel you'll all be your best selves. The best time for photography depends on everything from naptimes to scheduling to sunlight and availability. So when you're picking your session, think about your family in particular and what will make everyone happy and look their best.


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