They say that taking photographs is like painting… but with LIGHT. And it’s so true! Just like a painter would look for the best quality paints to create something beautiful on a white canvas, photographers are always searching for the best possible light to create photographs.
There’s a common misconception that having MORE light is always better for photos. But that’s not necessarily true! Extremely bright light from the sun (like the one we get around noon on a beautiful, sunny day) can actually hurt portraits if it’s not handled correctly. If subjects are not positioned correctly by the photographer (in spots where there isn’t any direct sunlight falling on the scene or on the subject’s face), the harsh noon light from the sun will create unflattering shadows under the eyes and nose of that subject. You know… those dark, black shadows that make us all look like ghosts… or raccoons! Harsh noon light also tends to make people squint. And, the truth is, NOBODY likes the feeling of having the sun in their eyes… Or looking like they’re sleeping in their photos!
I’m not saying it’s impossible to shoot portraits around noon, when the sun is high in the sky and causing all these problems. But it’s definitely more challenging, and it limits the locations and the angles from which we can shoot portraits successfully. This is why I always recommend scheduling sessions during “golden hour” – that magical period of time right after sunrise or right before sunset when the sun is lower in the sky and the light is more flattering on subjects. I also encourage my couples to schedule their wedding day portrait time as far as possible from noon (if their timeline allows them to do so), and preferably during that “golden hour”.
But what if you scheduled a portrait session for a specific day and you wake up to a gray, overcast day?
“Andrea, you said MORE light is not necessarily good, but the sun completely hidden behind the clouds must be bad, right? I mean, if MORE light is bad for portraits, then the other extreme should be bad too. Should I reschedule my portrait session to a different day?”
Or what if it’s your wedding day in a few days and the weather forecast says it’s going to be cloudy all day?
“Andrea, I’m panicking. Will the overcast day make my photos look dull? Will I hate all of my wedding day portraits?”
The answer to all of these questions is NO. To be honest, many photographers get excited when they realize the day is overcast. Some photographers even PREFER to shoot portraits outside on cloudy days. Why? Because clouds create a softbox effect. What this basically means is that light from the sun gets perfectly diffused through clouds, which creates beautiful, even light that works really well for portraits. On an overcast day, the light can be easier to manage, and most locations and shooting angles that would normally not work on a sunny day become fair game. And a good photographer will know how to use the light spilling through the clouds (combined with any supplemental artificial lighting, if it’s needed) to create images that are visually interesting and beautiful even in the most overcast of days. So there’s no need to reschedule your portrait session or panic on your wedding day.
If I’m honest, I prefer shooting portraits on sunny days, especially if it’s during “golden hour”! But if you placed me with a subject and a camera in the middle of an open field with no opportunities to place my subject in the shade, I’d pick a completely overcast day over a super bright and sunny one! In the past, I’ve created beautiful portraits in overcast days (like this photo of Liz and Rich on their Central Park engagement session at the middle of an overcast day). Heck, I’ve seen AMAZING engagement and wedding photos shot in RAINY days! If it’s overcast and it’s drizzling, it’s the perfect time to get a cute clear umbrella and just have fun with it!
Final thoughts: I’ve had so many clients completely stress out about overcast days. They stress out so much that they forget to have fun during their session, and it completely shows in their photos! My advice is to trust that your photographer is equipped to handle any kind of lighting situation. Just have fun and let them take care of the rest!
Do you want to know what time of the day is the best to schedule your portrait session? Check out THIS blog post to find out!
Are you interested in scheduling a portrait session with me? Would you like me to photograph your wedding day? I absolutely LOVE documenting clients’ unique stories, and I’m prepared to handle all kinds of lighting situations! To get on my calendar right away, you can contact me by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by using my website contact form, which goes straight to my inbox!