What Time of Day Should You Photograph Portraits?

November 13, 2023


Photography in Northern Michigan can be tricky when it comes to lighting. The sun sets so late here in the summer, that dreamy evening light can be hard to schedule into your day. Depending on who you talk to, a lot of people think there is a right and wrong time of day for portraits. I go back and forth and actually see a beauty in shooting in the afternoon and also in the evening because they bring such different looks to the images.

If you have the flexibility, my suggestion would be to set aside some time mid-day and also at golden hour (right before the sun goes down) so you can capture both looks.

Shooting Mid-Day

Shooting mid-day has its drawbacks for sure. If the sun is out, it’s really bright and people will have a hard time not squinting. The sun also can cast harsh shadows on faces, so if you have a specific background in mind, there could be some unflattering light on the subject. But if you have flexibility to move around, I don’t think shooting around 2 or 3 pm is a terrible idea.

In the following images, you will see that I shot the wedding party on the breakwall in Downtown Petoskey around 3pm. It’s bright, but super fun! Their skin tones are nice, the colors are vibrant, and the lake and sky are showing up very blue. Thankfully the sun was at an angle in the sky that it was fully lighting the wedding party’s faces properly and I wasn’t dealing with any harsh shadows cast over their eyes or mouths.

In the next two images, I will show you the same couple at golden hour. You can see that the entire vibe of the image is softer and more serene. The colors aren’t as vibrant, as you can see from the lake and the sky. But the sun is warm and golden and the greens on the trees is bright. The shadows are softer and overall the photo is calmer.

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I have been photographing weddings in Northern Michigan for 16 years now and have found some spots really stand out.  I have compiled a list of my favorite locations and would love to share it with you to help in planning your Northern Michigan wedding!

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