Lighting and Timing for Photo Sessions in the Bay Area

April 24, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

Lighting and Timing for Photo Sessions in the Bay Area

One of the most important aspects to consider when getting your photos done is the lighting. People often mention how spectacular certain shots are and wonder if they can get a shot like that themselves. Those iconic and dreamy engagement and wedding photos are all about lighting. There are quite a few different times of day to capture your images. There are pros and cons of each type of lighting that present at that specific time of day. Obviously things like daylight savings time, differing seasons, and weather conditions will play a role in determining the light you have during your session, but this is a general guide to get you started when choosing the time of day you think you might want.


Many couples often crave the softer lighting of sunset and the moments directly after, but did you know that you can take advantage of that same style of lighting early in the morning? We often forget that there is a magnificent sunrise in the morning time that is often just as good as the sunset in the evening. The light the morning has a subtle pastel feel to it. Starting with a deep romantic blue prior to sunrise, the sun then comes up and washes everything in brilliant pinks and oranges before brightening everything in its path. The obvious pros to morning shoots are the gorgeous colors and soft even light. The main con is that you might have to get up well before the crack of dawn to get ready to catch this time of day.

Morning Hours

Once the multitude of colors from the early-morning have faded, we are left with the beautiful full sun. Luckily at this time of day the sun is still close to the horizon and provides us with some fairly one directional side light. This is much easier to work with than light from straight up above. When the sky is filled with light and you find good angles your images tend to be clean looking and evenly lit all throughout. The pros of shooting in the morning are that all of your images will be consistent and evenly lit. The con is that your provided with a bit less drama than some other times of day.

Mid Day

Mid day is many photographers least favorite time to shoot. Direct downward lighting produced during mid-day and high noon create harsh shadows from our foreheads down onto our faces which can be rather unattractive. Without fill flash or reflectors it’s difficult to balance the light in a way that is flattering to our subjects. However, a big benefit of shooting at this time of day has to do with being in the same light as your background. When you and the landscape are well lit you can take some truly sensational wide shots that show off your chosen location. It’s also easier mid-day to capture perfect reflection shots in a body of water or puddle. When light is penetrating deeper into the water, the reflections become clearer and less transparent, giving off a more mirror like surface. It is also a lot less likely that you will run into many other people shooting at this time of day. Depending on what you’re looking for, the pros of brightly lit landscapes, creative reflections, and less crowding could beat out the con of the work it takes to evenly light the subjects in the images.


Most photographers prefer to shoot at this time of day. The sky casts a warmer hue of light that enhances skin tones and softens images for a truly wistful look. Harsh shadows are eliminated by the singular directionality of the light and there’s less of a chance that harsh highlights will blow out your image. It’s perfect for getting you in the same light as your background and creating incredible landscape shots as well. Evening light also adds a level of drama and romance when you can creatively position your subject in the light to take advantage of lens flares and light leaks. On top of all of that, who doesn’t love a good sunset? All of those pros add up quickly, but keep in mind you aren’t the only person who knows about the benefits. Shooting at this time of day, especially at popular locations, can present overcrowding and background subject matter in your images. Find a spot that’s a little lesser known, maybe one of the ones we mentioned here, and you should have no problem capturing perfect romantic photos.

Golden Hour

This is the time of day directly before sunset that every photographer aspires to shoot during. The soft pinkish red light that emanates from the dropping sun makes for effortless and artistic images that are sure to capture the love between a couple or group of family members. Summer provides us with the longest golden hour timeframe whereas Winter’s golden hour is quite short, sometimes even just a few minutes. Golden hour is highly dependent on the weather as well. Fog or heavy clouds prevent any view of the sunset and can completely eradicate the beautiful light so picking the perfect location is key. The pro of shooting at this time of night is unbelievably gorgeous images that result. The cons are that it takes some extra planning to get the exact right moments and, with a tiny stroke of bad luck, you could miss out on the sunset all together. Just make sure to choose a location that stays clear and free of clouds and you should be good to go!

Blue Hour/Night

Blue hour and nighttime photography happen after the sun has gone down. There is a short amount of time, maybe 15 to 20 minutes right after the sun drops, that presents us with cool colored somewhat sunrise like lighting. This time can be fun for a snuggly cuddle session or dark and broody landscape photos. Obviously once the sun has gone down completely you have the chance to really get creative with the off-camera lighting and flashes. Using the city lights along with some off camera lighting can add a really edgy and unique look to your images. A con is that night photography is a very specific type of photography that requires special skills to get it right. The HUGE prop is that when you find a photographer who nails it, it’s absolutely worth the time it takes.


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