When is the best time for Family Photographs ?
The key to great photography is lighting and timing. For photographing people, gentle natural daylight is usually a lot better than the midday to early afternoon sunshine. In the middle of the day there are extremes of light and shadow on everyone’s faces. Timing is also important for newborns and toddlers. A recently fed and rested young child is likely to be more patient and engaged with the rest of your family. Eyes literally ‘pop’ in your family photos when they are wide-open and gently lit.
Not everyone is the same
Have you ever wondered why some of your friends kids always seem to be happy and carefree. Yet when we look at our own nieces, nephews, children or grand-children, we wonder why a magical camera moment rapidly turns to grizzly-grumpy time? The simplest solution for your own family is to look for those regular little patterns. There are times in the day when your gorgeous little-folk are usually up for playing, babbling, chattering, crawling and waddling, or simply chilling with their little-friends and siblings.
Also with the our most senior family members, we’ve often noticed they are most receptive to photos in the mornings. When that caffeine of mid-morning Tea or Coffee really hits, energy levels are at their highest. Bing!
Get outside and look down at your watch!
You may have heard of the special magic in natures Golden-Hour. Here in Melbourne, this is a daily window of between 60-90 minutes before Sunset. At this time, the colours around us turn into warm-rich hues of yellowy-green, and then a light-orange. This is followed by a peachy-amber and finally a warm red or maroon. There is sometimes even a final glimmer of deep blue just before dusk. This period is important because this free gift from mother-earth makes two things happen in our family photos:
- Our faces look ‘warmer’, they slightly glow and even make us seem somehow ‘healthier’. They definitely portray us in a more relaxed and softer light – almost like water-colours in paintings
- The background of our photographic setting literally falls-back slightly. It’s an optical illusion in some ways. Whether it’s ay a beach, a street, a camp-site or our back-garden – it recedes and doesn’t distract from our family members
As we mentioned earlier, late-afternoon isn’t always practical with the little-folk. There is an alternative for most of the year. With the exception of mid-summer, most hours of the morning are a good alternative. Even in the brightest season of the year, up to mid-morning should be fine. Again, if everyone is happy – that’s half the battle!
Whatever you do, and especially on the beach or in any other setting where there is escape from the sun try to avoid the hours from 11:30am to 3:00pm. At time you will end up with overlit faces and dark shadows in the eyes. Everyone will no doubt be enjoying the day, but you photos may look bleached-out. Almost everyone squints a little if they take off their sunnies, so this makes people look less comfortable than you would want.
When it has to be the middle of the day
First of all, the brightest time of day isn’t such a problem if it is cloudy. A portrait photographers best friend by day is cloud-cover. Nobody wants it to rain. However, as a rule – the thicker the cloud, the better the colours, and the clearer everyone’s face becomes. Particularly for larger family groups, an even and gentle lighting in the whole scene will work wonders.
And then there is another trick in the book – shady places. Under trees, behind hedges, alongside a wall or a fence, near a building – anything that shades from direct sunlight can work at any time of day. If you choose trees for cover, keep looking out for large gaps in that shade. Too many gaps, and you end up with very bright ‘hotspots’. These are particularly distracting when these land on peoples faces.
The best cameras in the world can’t make up for extreme contrasts between light and shade, so have a look around you. Just a short walk can make all the difference in getting everyone in under that even and gentle cover of shade. Even on the beach or in an expansive park-land, there are still creative things you can do . For example, if you have a windbreak or a sun-canopy, look for a way of grouping your friends and loved-ones on that shady side, if only for 30 seconds. This time could be all you need for that memorable family photo.
Considering our fur-family members
Let’s not forget photographing our extended fur-family either. Particularly for dogs mostly black or white-coloured fur, the light time of early-mid morning or late-afternoon will make their coats ‘shine’. Let’s be honest – do you know a dog that doesn’t want to go for an early or late walk with their 2-legged servant?
As you can see from our own studio Portfolio, the golden-light of early evening can lead to magical warmth and detail, particularly on the beach or in any another open setting. With diggy-doggies, the tail-end of a walk 😉 can mean that our canine friends are less ‘goey’. They are happy to sit-down (or at least stay-put) for a few precious seconds.
Putting these tips into action
This is the best bit! Just follow these tips above, and just try it. Balancing the time of day with all family members young and old isn’t a science. However, it certainly is worth planning for. It will really make a difference to you treasured photographs. Just be ready to experiment a bit, its how we all learn to improve.
It’s been fun sharing some of these simple tips and ideas with you. If you want any more ideas or just what to tap-into our experience, feel free to reach out to me, and I can help you with all your Family photography needs.
Duet Images Photography Studio, Wheelers Hill