Did you know that there's a time of day that really is the best for photos? Photography is all about capturing light and creating art with light, so photographers are always searching for the ideal light to use for their images. Good use of light = good photos. Harsh light can be fun to play around with, and you can be very creative with the light and shadows that it creates, but it's not very good for any kind of photo session. It creates terrible, heavy shadows on your subjects' faces, and can cause a lot of color casting, which is when the sun reflects colors nearby onto your skin. Green color casts from grass are super unflattering and a giant pain in the neck to correct during the editing process. I'll get rid of an image with heavy color casting 9 times out of 10 rather than try and fix it, that's how big of a pain it is! Unfortunately, harsh light occurs throughout the majority of the daytime hours.
So when is the light the best? It's called Golden Hour, and it happens twice a day. That's it. Golden hour occurs during the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The sun is super low in the sky, which creates beautiful, soft, golden light that just cannot be replicated at any other time of day, and it's this time that is the best for photos. The exact time changes throughout the year as the days grow longer and shorter. In the fall and especially the winter, the sun sets very early (and is extra golden), so you'd be looking at starting a session around 4pm or 6:30-7am, which can be great for families with young kids.
Conversely, in the summer months when many people want photos taken, the sun sets after 8pm. That means starting a session at 7 or 7:30, which lines right up with lots of kids' bedtimes. If you're looking at a sunrise session, 5:15am would be when you're starting your session in the summer months. Neither sounds awesome when you have little kids, right? It is entirely worth it, though. Golden hour images have this instant nostalgic and magical quality to them. Halos of light around your children's heads, soft, glowy light on their perfect skin, a sun just dipping over the tree line and lighting up the sky in gorgeous colors as your family laughs and snuggles and plays. These images are so beautiful and will be the ones you want to print and display in your home.
I don't write this to discourage anyone and tell you that you can't have photos taken at other times of the day--you can, of course, and they will still be beautiful. You will be limited to locations with open shade and trees that can filter the light, though, so that it's not falling harshly on your faces and causing unflattering shadows or color casts. So if you're looking for that golden, glowy, nostagic feeling in your images, remember: only Golden Hour can give you that.