So you’re planning your engagement shoot… awesome! I’m here to help you understand what time of day is best for engagements, because there are definitely right and wrong answers here.
So first of all, if you’re thinking “Okay let me knock these out during my lunch break” or something similar…. STOP. Photos shot mid-day are almost going to look less than stellar (unless your photographer is a magician or something!). You’re going to want to either shoot super early in the morning, or late in the evening. I’ll explain further below.
So when the sun is lower in the sky, several things are happening. Shadows falling across someone’s face is far more flattering during these two times. Don’t believe me? Have someone stand below directly below an overhead light (such as a ceiling fan) and snap a photo on your phone. Then do the same thing, but next to a desk lamp. You should see a very noticeable increase in quality!
So why is photography better when the sun is lower in the sky?
When the sun is lower in the sky, several things are happening. The light takes a longer path to reach you, so during that time, more of the blue light is filtered out due to chemical composition of the atmosphere. This results in an overall warmer tone, which is far more flattering to skin tones and feels more intimate (I personally think this is why tungsten lighting is more popular for lighting homes).
Also, a greater proportion of the light for your photos comes from the scattered light in the sky, resulting in softer shadows. Softer shadows are one of the primary reasons why photographers spend unforgivable amounts of money on light modifiers. Many of these modifiers can be boiled down to “light softeners”. The softer the light, the more flattering it is to the photo subject, such as you and your loved one!
And finally, when the sun is lower in the sky, the sun can act as a rim light to your photos. For the photography layperson, a rim light is a backlight that helps highlight the edges of your subject, helping draw your eyes to the subject and away from the background. See the included image for an example of natural rim lighting!
The Best Time For Shooting
So there isn’t a single good time that is good for photos. The sunrise and sunsets in your area are affected by your time zone, location relative to the equator, and whether or not you observe daylight savings. Luckily, the internet has our back here. Most weather apps can tell you the sunrise and sunset of any given day for the foreseeable future (assuming robots don’t take over the planet and destroy the sun, obviously). So my advice is to check the sunrise/sunset of a date close to when you’re planning your shoot, and then create your timeline from there.
If you plan to shoot around sunrise, then be sure to meet with your photographer 15 minutes before sunrise, so that way you’ll have plenty of time to get familiar with them and comfortable in front of the camera. The best shots are going to happen right as the sun is rising above the horizon.
Which leads me to my final point. Sunset engagement photography sessions are so much better because you can end the shoot with the best photos. Your engagement shoot is likely the first time you’ll work with your photographer, so there will be that awkward time where you’re all getting familiar with each other and getting comfortable in front of the camera. So the less awesome photos that are shot while the sun is still in the sky can be almost like a small “meet-and-greet”, and then later when the sun is super low in the sky, you’re mega comfortable with each other. It most definitely shows in the photos!
I hope this is helpful for planning your engagement shoot. Your photographer will likely have their own opinions, but I feel like most of them will agree with what I said here. Good luck out there!