What is the best time of day for wedding photos?
I get a lot of questions from couples about what time of day is best to plan a wedding or elopement ceremony or what time they should plan for portraits. As a photographer, I love when couples ask for my input on these sorts of things. Having photographed literally hundreds of weddings at all hours of the day, I have some strong opinions on what can work best and consider the light in ways most people would never give a second thought.
First things first though, a disclaimer. I understand that not all weddings can be flexible on timing. Sometimes you’re going to have to take photos mid-afternoon or in bright sun. Don’t worry, I’ve been doing this for a long time and will make it work whatever your situation. However, that said, if you have a choice in the matter and want to set your timing up for the best possible photographs, here are a few things to keep in mind. If you happen to be eloping, especially if it’s just the two of you, I can’t urge you enough to consider the light when planning your ceremony and portraits.
When is the best light?
If you’re planning around light, which makes you my dream come true, then my best advice is to plan with golden hour in mind. This means that we’ll be taking portraits around sunrise or sunset. The difference between noon and golden hour sun is dramatic. That soft rosy light at sunrise or the warm golden hues at sunset? I can’t make that up. It’s something special that only happens at that time of day. It also means that we can avoid the harsh shadows and squinty eyes that can happen midday. Generally speaking, the hour right as the sun comes up or the hour leading up to sunset are ideal. I usually tell couples the farther they can get their photos from the hours of 11-3pm, the better off we’ll be.
For larger wedding clients who don’t have flexible timing for their ceremony, I often recommend that we take 10 minutes right around sunset for some extra romantic portraits. I can steal you away for just a moment right before dinner, you get some time alone, and we can take some beautiful photos in the evening light. Then you can head back to your party before anyone was the wiser.
What else should I consider when planning my timing?
Are you getting married in the summer time? In NYC, this means that mid-afternoon can be HOT. If you’re concerned about the weather, the other benefit of getting married early morning or late evening is the temperature. If you have a sunrise or sunset ceremony, it’ll be the coolest point in the day so you’ll be less likely to be all sweaty when exchanging your vows and taking pictures.
Lastly, but certainly not least, crowds. Mid-afternoon is prime sight-seeing time. NYC can be a crazy place, but at sunrise? It’s nearly empty. This is the only time of day you’ll have Brooklyn Bridge to yourself. If you want to take photos on the bridge, at Bethesda Terrace, Top of the Rock, the Highline or any of the other main tourist locations, I can’t recommend sunrise highly enough. This is especially true if you’re camera shy and would rather not have any onlookers. The light will be golden and the streets will be quiet. It can be your own private New York moment, perfectly captured just for you.
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