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When is the ideal time for a sports portrait session

Updated: May 18, 2022

You might've heard these terms tossed around before -- golden hour, blue hour, open shade.

Seems everyone has an opinion on when the best time is for portrait photography.

Boy baseball player after sun down
Bek Heller | Baseball | Manheim Township

For those who haven't heard these terms, let's quickly break them down:

  • Golden hour - that time morning or evening when the sun hovering on the horizon or just below fills the world with warm, soft light.

  • Blue hour - just before dawn or after dusk, when the sky is transitioning from or to night. That's when the sky is a perfect shade of blue.

  • Open shade - This describes an area such as beneath an awning. It might be mid-afternoon without a cloud in the sky, but if you're in shade, the light falls softly on your face.

  • Direct light - Stand in the middle of a sidewalk or park on a sunny day. Face the sun so that it shines directly on your face. That's direct light.

Here's a little secret for you to know about the ideal shooting conditions - there's no such thing.

The photographer's job is to serve you any time of day

The best portrait photographers will read any lighting situation and make the adjustments necessary.

The well-regarded wedding photographer Cliff Mautner once said that our first job is to get the photo. Our second job is to get a better photo.

What he meant was portraits can be made in any lighting situation. It's up to the photographer to examine the situation and decide how and when to add light like studio lamps.

Are there certain times of day when balancing the great elements of photography (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) is easier? Sure.

Girl field hockey player at sunset
Autumn Rhodes | Field Hockey | Hempfield

That doesn't mean the other times of day are impossible.

It means we have to dig into our tool box of tricks if the lighting is less-than-ideal.

Mid-afternoon sun can make shooting difficult, but the sun is still shining on the Northern Hemisphere at an angle, which means it's directional.

Why's that important? Because a professional photographer can use tools like lens filters or change the shooting angle or even add more light (yup, we can do that) to create beautiful portraits.

What CSP clients need to know

It's incredibly important for me to schedule a sports portrait session that is at a time most convenient for you.

If we can make a sunset portrait happen, wonderful!

High School tennis player at dusk
Matthew DeBord | Tennis | Lancaster Catholic

But if due to the busy schedules of parents and athletes, we have to schedule for a mid-afternoon photo shoot, we can still make amazing portraits.

Portraits you'll be thrilled to have. Portraits the athlete in your family will love.

My job, my priority, is to make that portrait magic happen any time of day.

To book a sports portrait experience, use the form below. Tell me about the sport you play, why you love it, whom you play for, and anything else you feel is important.


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