Q: “We were thinking Central Park for the photos. In your experience, what time would be best for photos, morning/mid-day/evening/night?”
A: Generally speaking, the time of day is not as important as the weather, the location and how the couple feels. But if it’s a sunny day, then the best time is very early morning, starting pretty close to sunrise. That’s when the sunlight is still soft and pretty. Of course, that’s a very unpopular time for photos.
The next best time is late in the day, about the last hour before sunset. The only problem with that time is that the light runs out and there’s no chance to keep going. Famed portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz advises against shooting when the light is running out (if one has a choice). On the other hand, Jose Villa, a renowned wedding photographer from CA, seems to thrive on making portraits in that last hour of daylight. Of course photos can be made after dark too, but they look quite different.
For most couples and most photographers, the answer is to shoot whenever it’s convenient, which is usually not the start or the end of the day. Fortunately, there are various ways of shooting even if the sun is bright. The most common way is to find some shade, often near open sky or a reflective area. This is easy to find wherever there are buildings, trees, overpasses, etc., so it’s no problem in Central Park. The other way is to shoot with the sun behind the subject, or at an angle behind. This works well too and can be done even in bright sun, though I’d probably still prefer some shade.
I’ve done portraits at pretty much all times of day, and feel confident I can create excellent results regardless of the time. It’s ultimately more important that clients feel comfortable and unrushed. And because the weather is a big variable, the light on the day of the session might be hard to predict if we’re scheduling the session a week or more in advance.