In short, if you want the best looking photograph you shoot in the morning as early as you can possibly get up to do so. The second best time is once the sun starts to set. The third and least favorable time of the day is around noon (also known as the solar noon). The exact time frames changes as the seasons do. In the winter, your morning window to photograph in Charlotte may be 7:30am to 11:30am. During the summer, the morning time frame would be 6:30am to 12:30pm.
What makes the morning so great? Without being technical, the morning light is softest and doesn’t create harsh shadows on your face and cause squinting. The afternoon is the worst because the Charlotte sun is at its brightest and the most harsh which causes what is referred to as raccoon eyes (very dark shadows underneath the eyes). Late evening can work because the sun is setting and the light from it is becoming soft and is manageable, still not as great as sunrise but pretty manageable.
Can’t we just find a tree and shoot in the afternoon? You will still run into problems with the color cast from the shade of the tree and it’s very likely that your face may be in the shade, but the background will not be. In this case, you will have a very blown out (white) looking background. Cameras today have come a long way, but they are still not able to handle the dynamic range that the human eye has to see and properly develop very bright and very dim lights at the same time.
If its just not convenient or possible for you to photograph during these prime times, it is possible to shoot at any time of the day. It requires a larger production because the necessary tools to block harsh light will be required to produce an outstanding photograph and thus drives up the costs of afternoon sessions.
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