The Best Time to Shoot Portraits and How to Do It

Most new photographers would never know or understand when the best time to shoot portraits is. But if you want an effortless time and diffused natural light, then you’ll have to plan accordingly. Most importantly, you’ll need a subject that’s got the time to shoot. And you don’t need a fancy camera or lenses for this method. As long as you just know and understand the timing, you’ll see that this is universally the best time to shoot portraits. So what is it? We’ll tell you after the jump.

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The Best Time to Shoot Portraits and Why

The best time to shoot portraits is during an overcast day when the sun is behind the clouds. Some photographers and producers call this the softbox look in the creative industry. Obviously, this doesn’t mean it will always happen during the golden hour. The Golden Hour is very nice, but if you don’t know how to use the light, it’s useless. Instead, it’s easier to just get naturally diffused lighting in all situations and from every angle. 

Here are some specific reasons why the best time to shoot portraits is during a cloudy day.

  • You can shoot at a wider aperture and a lower ISO. This will give you sharper images and often a lot of data to work with in post-production. As you raise the ISO of a camera, it tends to lose both color rendition and dynamic range.
  • You can use your camera’s spot metering methods to meter for a subject’s face.
  • No matter the angle, and as long as you’re exposing accordingly, no angle can look bad.
  • You’re not going to have deep, dark shadows under their eyes or under their chin. No one wants those. (I purposely grow a beard to hide my chin, or chins rather! Ha!)
  • Colors tend to pop more with soft, diffused lighting.
  • If you’re using auto white balance, it’s going to add warmth to the image to make the skin tones look more radiant.
  • You can do all this using just natural light. If you choose to mix in a flash, it will make everything pop even more.

How to Do It

Here are a few tips on utilizing a cloudy day. Once you try it, it will really hammer in why it’s the best time to shoot portraits:

  • Consider bringing a reflector. It will bounce light back into someone’s face and under their chin.
  • Don’t want to bring a reflector? Change the pose up or shoot very tight.
  • Shooting a photo with a subject by a red brick wall will make your subject appear more red.
  • Use your camera’s natural HDR mode. It will raise the shadows and nerf the highlights, but to the point where a portrait will still look natural.
  • Grab a lens with a shallow depth of field and a fast aperture. A standard nifty 50 lens is just fine. At that previous link, you’ll find our reviews of lots of them. 
  • Pose your subject. Even though there is all this diffused lighting, you’ll still have to move them around a bit. Come up with a concept of some sort. 

At the end of the day, just remember that you shouldn’t stress any of this. Look at the image, assess what’s going well and what’s not. Figure out a solution to what’s plaguing your photos. And always remember to experiment. 

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.