What Is the Best Time of Day to Take Headshots?

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By The Light Committee

If you are planning to get headshots, one thing you might ponder is what time of day to get them? You might be wondering what does it matter if they are going to be created inside a studio? Well, if the day wears on you as it goes by, earlier in the day might be better. If you are going to have headshots created outside, then there are other factors to consider. First, decide if you want studio headshots, headshots outdoors, or both, and then you can figure out the time of day that would be best.

woman real estate agent headshot outside Los Angeles
The Time of Day for Natural Light Headshots Will Have an Impact on Results

Studio vs. Outdoors Headshots

As just mentioned, you might want to give some thought as to whether you want your headshots created in a studio setting, outdoors, or if both would be good. Much of this depends on your profession and how you want to stand out in your headshots. For example, in banking or finance, most professionals tend to want simple studio backgrounds. Such backgrounds can help enforce branding requirements and help keep the focus on the subject. It’s also just more common of a background in such industries.

As examples of professions where a headshot outdoors might be ideal, a real estate agent or psychologist might be ideal for natural light. This is because a real estate agent and psychologist might want to push “approachability” or “compassionate” as primary messages whereas a banker might wish to push “professional” or “trusting” as a primary message. It’s not that warmth or compassion cannot be alluded to with a studio background but being outdoors with nature-like scenery can make it simpler to do so.

Actors often will want to get studio headshots, though not necessarily for all their looks. Actors are one profession where getting studio and natural light headshots might be a good idea. This is because actors typically use many looks in their portfolio to send across multiple messages for each shot. But other professionals that are using a headshot session for full branding might want to opt for inside and outside too, like the real estate agent and psychologist just mentioned.

After you’ve considered whether you want studio, outdoors, or both for your headshots, now you need to factor in the time of day that is best.

A woman getting professional headshots for work in Los Angeles outdoors.
A good photographer will know how to use the sun to his or her advantage

The Golden Hour of Photography and Your Schedule

Sometimes your schedule will decide for you when you are able to get headshots, and that will be that. However, if you have flexibility and are opting for studio shots, there are some key things to consider.

Some people feel their best and also feel like they look their best first thing in the morning and that is when they will opt to schedule their headshots. Other people might want their morning coffee first, to help them feel more vibrant. Still, others might want to wait until after lunch so that a nourishing meal makes them feel better.

The more important thing to consider is to avoid scheduling your headshot session as the last thing to do on a very busy day. It’s not that it is not okay to schedule headshots after 5 pm but, just avoid doing it on a day you already knew was packed with other activities, or more activities than you usually do. You don’t want to head to your headshot session tired or grumpy.

Now, if you are wanting to do your headshots outdoors, many photographers will consider the golden hour. This is typically the hour after sunrise or before sunset. It is often liked because of the reddish coloring the sun gives off. However, for a headshot, that reddish coloring may not be ideal. For this reason, a little bit later in the morning or a little bit sooner than sunset might be more practical. This is because the sun will not be at high-noon above – casting the most undesirable shadows for headshots – and will also not have that reddish tone to it. So, think a couple of hours before sunset or after sunrise.

A social media photo shoot of a woman on a downtown Los Angeles rooftop
For Some Shots, the Reddish Tones of the Golden Hour are Great, Like in This Shot. But Not Often for Headshots.

What is the Worst Time of Day to Take Headshots?

We just touched on the worst time of day to get headshots outdoors. If the sun is at its peak or within 1-2 hours of that peak, it’s usually the most challenging time for creating headshots outdoors. It’s not impossible, and a crafty photographer can figure out ways to work around it, but it will present the most challenges. So, it is best to avoid it as much as possible.

As for timing inside a studio, again it is about avoiding times where you are likely going to be tired or not in a positive vibe moment. For some people this will mean avoiding the mornings while for others it will mean avoiding the afternoons. It’s a personal decision. Also remember to factor in your other activities the same day. If you have all kinds of other appointments, it’s probably not a good headshot day. Some people will devote their day to the headshot, meaning they’ll book a haircut appointment and makeup session, etc., then head to their headshot session, and then take further advantage of the styling they paid for with an evening out.

While in Los Angeles weather is not as impactful, in other parts of the country weather can go from sunny to thunderstorms in a minute. So, checking the weather might also be important to figuring out a time.

man in an outdoor headshot in Los Angeles
A good photographer can also make a busy background fade away with blur, known as bokeh

What is the Best Background for Headshots?

The time of day might impact your background options if you are wanting to have your headshots created outside. For example, you might have walked by a unique looking wall one day and decided that’s where you want headshots made. However, you didn’t remember that at 4 pm when you walked by the wall was in shade whereas you scheduled your session at 9 am and it is now in hard sun light with blotchy shadows from a nearby tree.

For reasons such as this, it is a good idea to scout your desired location to determine the best time. It’s not only about how the sun is or isn’t falling on a wall but also about how it falls on you. Is it so bright that you’re constantly squinting?

In a studio a photographer will have some options for backgrounds. Some photographers will have many more than others. So, shop around. Whether in-studio or outdoors, choosing the best background for headshots will again come down to the message or messages you want to convey. You will want to match the background to your outfit choices too, to ensure colors are not clashing.

You might want to consult with your headshot photographer on such things as they will usually have some suggestions based on experience doing countless headshot sessions. In addition, you can develop a mood board to share with your photographer, which is basically just gathering some examples of shots you like that you want to try to recreate or create something similar. Pinterest is a good site / app to use for this.

So, there you have it. There are a few things to consider when trying to decide the best time to create headshots. First is whether in-studio or outdoors because this has the most impact. Still, other factors – like your schedule and desired backgrounds – will also need to be considered so you can maximize how good your headshots turn out in the end.