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When is the best time for pictures, totally depends on the vibe you want

While there is no "wrong" time to have your photos, the time of day (and location) really plays into what they end of feeling like. You do NOT need to be the expert on this, as you have us in your corner for when you are ready to dial this in, but being informed will help you know more about what you want out of your photography experience.

Ready to dig in?

There is a LOT to chat about with this topic, and we want to cover all of it so you can have the best photos (with the best memories).

In order to make sure you can get the info you need, feel free to use this table of contents to jump between sections quickly. And, as always feel comfortable reaching out to us if you have any questions.

When it comes to When is the best time for photos, light rules all.

When you're considering booking a photography session, whether for a special occasion like an engagement or a milestone like a senior portrait, one crucial element often overlooked is the timing of light. As photographers, we've learned that the time of day has the most significant impact on your images outside of the joy and human energy of the person being photographed. Here in Traverse City, we are blessed with a landscape that, under the right light, becomes an extraordinary canvas for our memories.

Understanding the impact of light and time of day on your photos is essential. Light is not just a medium; it's the paintbrush we use to bring moments to life. The soft, warm hues of a late afternoon, the vibrant intensity of a midday sun, or the mysterious ambiance of the early evening – each offers a different mood and feel.

Here we'll explore why choosing the right time for your photography session is vital. We will delve into the enchanting 'Golden Hour', renowned for its soft, flattering light, and the ethereal 'Blue Hour', offering a tranquil and serene backdrop. These moments in the day provide unique opportunities for capturing images that are not just pictures but stories captured in time.

We'll also guide you through the best times for various types of photography. Whether it’s the playful spontaneity needed in family photos, the romantic aura for engagement pictures, or the confident and bold look for senior portraits, timing plays a pivotal role.

Beyond the enchanting hours of dawn and dusk, we'll share insights on how to make the most of any time of day for your photography needs. After all, each moment has its unique beauty, and with the right approach, we can unveil it in your photos.

So, whether you're just getting started looking to capture your own moments, or you know exactly where you want to shoot, understanding the role of timing in photography is key. Let's discover together how the right timing can transform your photographs from ordinary pictures into memories etched into your family history.

tossing a kid of up in the air by lake michigan When is the best time for photos
sunset light on an engagement couple When is the best time for photos

Golden Hour

Golden Hour, often revered by photographers around the world, is a period shortly after sunrise or just before sunset. This time is cherished for the soft, diffused light it casts, creating an ambiance that can elevate a simple photo to something truly magical. As photographers in Traverse City, we're privileged to witness how this light plays with our stunning landscapes, creating the perfect setting for any photo session.

Why is Golden Hour so special for photography? It’s all about the quality of light. The sun's low position on the horizon produces a warm, golden hue that flatters the subject, be it a high school senior ready to step into a new phase of life or a couple celebrating their engagement. This light wraps softly around the subject, minimizing harsh shadows and highlighting features with a natural, radiant glow.

For senior portraits, Golden Hour provides a backdrop that's both dreamy and timeless. It adds a layer of sophistication and depth to the images. For families, this time of day brings out the intimacy and warmth of the relationships, capturing those candid, joyful moments in the most flattering light. As for engagement sessions, the romance of Golden Hour's light complements the couple's love story, creating images that are not only photographs but treasured memories.

But it's not just the light itself that makes this time so desirable. Golden Hour also brings with it a sense of calm and tranquility, often with fewer people around, allowing for a more intimate and focused photo session. This is particularly beneficial in popular locations around Traverse City, where quieter moments are cherished.

To make the most of Golden Hour, planning is key. We always advise our clients to arrive a bit early, allowing us to find the perfect spot and prepare for the session. This time also allows everyone to relax and get comfortable, which is essential for capturing genuine, natural-looking photos.

In Traverse City, we’re fortunate to experience some of the most picturesque Golden Hours, especially on the coast of Lake Michigan. Whether it’s the vibrant autumn colors, the serene snowscapes of winter, or the lush greenery of spring and summer, each season offers its unique take on this magical time, providing endless possibilities for stunning photography.

Golden Hour Sun engagement When is the best time for photos

Blue Hour

While Golden Hour is famed for its warm, glowing light, Blue Hour is celebrated for its serene and introspective mood. Occurring just before sunrise and after sunset, Blue Hour bathes the world in a subtle, bluish hue, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and mystery. For us, as photographers capturing the essence of Traverse City, this time offers a canvas of deep blues and cool tones that contrast beautifully with the warmer daytime hues.

Blue Hour is shorter than Golden Hour and requires a little more planning to capture its fleeting magic. This time of day is particularly enchanting for photography sessions that benefit from a more contemplative and ethereal ambiance. It's a moment that can add a layer of emotional depth and artistic flair to your images.

Senior portraits taken during Blue Hour can communicate a sense of anticipation and introspection, reflecting the significant transition in your life. Family photos in this light can reveal a softer, more intimate side, bringing a unique sense of closeness and unity. Engagement photos shot during Blue Hour capture the romance and depth of the couple's bond, set against a backdrop that is both dramatic and tender.

For photographers, Blue Hour challenges us to work with different lighting conditions, often requiring careful exposure settings and a creative approach to composition. The cooler, diffused light can add a layer of complexity to our images, but when harnessed correctly, it produces results that are profoundly beautiful and emotionally resonant.

In Traverse City, Blue Hour is a time when the natural beauty of our surroundings transforms into a quiet, mystical world. The shores of Lake Michigan, the rolling landscapes, and the quiet cityscapes all take on a different character, offering us new perspectives and creative opportunities.

As we navigate the nuances of Blue Hour in our photography, it's essential to embrace the challenge it presents. This magical time of day provides a brief window to capture the world in a light that is rarely seen, creating photographs that are not just images but portals to moments filled with emotion and memories.

engagement photos during blue hour When is the best time for photos

Senior Portraits - When is the best time for senior pictures

Senior portraits are more than just photographs; they are milestones marking a pivotal moment in your life. The timing of these photoshoots plays a significant role in capturing the essence of this transitional phase. As photographers, we’ve found that the best time for senior portraits is when the light aligns with the senior's personality and the desired mood of the shoot.

In Traverse City, the late afternoon during Golden Hour offers a blend of warmth and softness that complements the hopeful and ambitious spirit of seniors. This time provides a natural, flattering light that beautifully highlights their features while casting a gentle glow on the surroundings. The backdrop of Lake Michigan or our vibrant cityscapes during this hour adds a layer of depth and texture to the images.

For a more introspective and unique look, Blue Hour can be a wonderful choice. The cooler tones and the tranquil atmosphere help in capturing a more contemplative and sophisticated side of the senior. This timing works exceptionally well for creating a portfolio that stands out, showcasing a different aspect of their personality.

However, we also understand that every senior is unique, and their portraits should reflect their individuality. Some may prefer the bright and energetic feel of a mid-morning shoot, where the light is crisp and lively, matching their vibrant energy. For others, a late morning or early afternoon session, with its even lighting, might be more suitable, especially if they prefer a more balanced and natural look.

Timing in senior portrait photography is not just about the light; it’s about matching the light to the senior's character. It's about using the time of day to tell their story, to showcase who they are at this significant moment in their lives. In Traverse City, with our diverse landscapes and lighting conditions, we have the opportunity to create a senior portrait that truly reflects the individuality and spirit of each senior.

As you plan for a senior portrait session, consider not just the aesthetics of the photos but also the message and the feeling you want to convey. And do not forget that you can always book a session that captures multiple lighting situations.

senior portrait on the beach at sunset When is the best time for photos

Golden hour senior portrait

senior friends on a beach at blue hour When is the best time for photos

Group of seniors after sunset (blue hour)

sunny photo shoot at the sleeping bear dunes When is the best time for photos

Senior portrait before sunset (pre-golden hour)

Family Portraits - When is the best time for family pictures

Capturing the essence of a family in a photograph is a beautiful experience. The right timing can make all the difference, turning a family photo session into an album of treasured memories. In Traverse City, we are fortunate to have a variety of natural settings and lighting conditions that offer the perfect backdrop for family portraits.

Golden Hour is a popular choice for family pictures. Its soft, warm light creates a welcoming and joyful atmosphere, ideal for capturing the loving bonds and playful interactions that define a family. The golden rays of the sun add a magical touch to the photographs, making them look like scenes from a fairytale. This time of day is especially great for families with young children, as the gentle light is easy on the eyes and helps in capturing their innocent and carefree expressions.

However, Blue Hour can also provide a unique setting for family portraits. The cooler tones and the calm ambiance of this time create a more intimate and serene setting. This can be particularly striking for families looking for a more artistic and distinctive photo session, as the subtle hues of the blue light add a layer of sophistication and depth to the images.

Mid-morning and early afternoon times are also excellent for family photos, especially for larger gatherings or for families with busy schedules. The brighter light during these hours brings vibrancy and energy to the photos, capturing the dynamic and joyful spirit of family life. While the light is more direct, with the right positioning and camera settings, it can produce stunning, high-contrast images that are full of life.

Choosing the right time for your family portrait depends on the mood you wish to capture, the age of the children involved, and your family's unique dynamics. Whether it's the soft warmth of the late afternoon or the cool serenity of the early evening, each time of day offers a distinct feel and aesthetic.

In Traverse City, with its picturesque landscapes and varied light conditions, we have the privilege of creating family portraits that are not just photographs, but memories imprinted in time, capturing the essence of what makes each family unique.

family portrait session durning golden hour When is the best time for photos

Golden hour family portrait

blue hour family session on lake michigan When is the best time for photos

Blue hour family portrait

kid running on a tiny lake by lake michigan When is the best time for photos

Golden hour family portrait

Engagement photos - When is the best time for engagement pictures

Engagement photos are a celebration of love and commitment, and choosing the right time for these photos is key to capturing the essence of your relationship. In the scenic beauty of Traverse City, the time of day can add a dramatic or tender touch to these once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Golden Hour is a favorite among couples for engagement shoots. Its soft, warm light creates an inherently romantic and dreamy setting, perfect for showcasing the love and affection between partners. The way the golden light illuminates faces and landscapes provides a naturally beautiful backdrop for these intimate moments. It's a time when every glance and touch is bathed in a warm glow, enhancing the emotional depth of the photographs.

Blue Hour, with its cooler, more ethereal light, offers a different but equally compelling setting for engagement photos. It provides a tranquil and slightly mysterious backdrop that can bring a sense of adventure and uniqueness to your images. The contrast between the cool blues of the sky and the warm tones of artificial lighting, like streetlamps or city lights, can create a magical and cinematic feel, perfect for couples looking for something a bit different.

For those who prefer a more vibrant and lively backdrop, mid-morning to early afternoon offers brighter, more dynamic lighting. This time of day can bring a sense of joy and energy to your engagement photos, capturing the excitement and optimism of your journey together. The clear, blue skies and the brightness of the day can symbolize the clarity and strength of your commitment to each other.

In Traverse City, we're blessed with a variety of natural settings that can enhance these moments, from serene beaches to charming urban landscapes. Choosing the right time for your engagement photoshoot is not just about the light; it's about reflecting the unique bond you share with your partner. Whether it's the tender, golden hues of sunset or the dramatic, cool tones of twilight, the perfect time can bring your love story to life in your photographs.

golden hour sun for an engagement session When is the best time for photos

Golden hour engagement photos

Blue hour engagement photos

swinging on the beach during blue hour When is the best time for photos

Blue hour engagement

Putting it all together

Light, in its myriad forms, is the essence of photography. It's not just a technical aspect; it's an artistic medium that shapes every photograph we create. As photographers in Traverse City, our approach to light is both a science and an art, allowing us to capture images that tell a story and evoke emotions.

Understanding and mastering light is crucial. The quality, direction, and color of light can change the entire mood of a photograph. Bright, midday light creates stark contrasts and vivid colors, ideal for capturing the vibrancy of life. However, it can also create harsh shadows and may not be suitable for all types of photography. This is where the knowledge and experience of a photographer come into play – to harness and modify light, ensuring that the subject is portrayed in the best possible way.

Soft light, like that found during the Golden Hour, offers a gentleness that can enhance the natural beauty of a subject. It’s forgiving, reduces shadows, and provides a warm, inviting tone to images. This light is often sought after for its flattering qualities and the dream-like atmosphere it can create.

Conversely, Blue Hour offers a cooler, more introspective light. It requires a different approach, often involving longer exposures and careful consideration of composition to make the most of the subtle hues and shadows. This light can create a sense of calmness, mystery, or romance, adding a layer of depth to the images.

In Traverse City, with its diverse natural landscapes and dynamic weather conditions, understanding how to work with different types of light is essential. Whether it's utilizing the soft glow of the early morning sun or capturing the dramatic shadows of a late afternoon, each type of light provides an opportunity to create something unique.

As photographers, we constantly study and adapt to the light, working to create images that are not just seen but felt. It's about more than just capturing a moment; it's about creating an experience and a memory that resonates with the viewer.

Remember, light is not just a component of photography; it is its heart and soul. Embracing its potential can transform an ordinary scene into an extraordinary moment, forever captured through the lens.

Ready to create some beautiful memories? Some memorable experiences?

No matter what time of day you pick, or where you want to shoot, there is something unique waiting for you in Traverse City/Northern Michigan. When you are ready, click the button below and fill out the form, we will reach out with a comprehensive plan for where, when, and how we can create beautiful things together.


I am a coffee loving, extroverted nerd who is always ready for a great conversation. I dream big, I’m terrible at directions, yet I can explain in detail how a black hole works. People describe me as a golden retriever, which I take as the highest of compliments.

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