I feel like I should preface this blog post by saying that a great time to get out and get shooting is ANY TIME! If you are just getting into the habit of bringing your camera along with you, then good for you! If the opportunity arises, and it's not the "ideal time", so what? If you're shooting, then it's the perfect time!
That said, there are some wonderful times of day, where the light is at its best and the photos you take are bound to be their best. And as a mom AND a photographer, I love the irony in that the best times for a photographer to get out and shoot are perhaps the worst times for a mom to skip out on her own. Of course!
Let me back up. Truly, the most wonderful times to get outside with your camera are when the sun is coming up, or when the sun is coming down. As the sun wakes us each morning, the shadows are longer and less harsh on our faces, and there is a cool tone to the morning light. I'm a morning person, so I love morning light. But I'm also a mom, and so I understand that getting kids up, dressed, fed, and out the door- and all without any melt downs- is pretty much next to impossible. Still, if you've got kids who tend to get up early, take advantage of that morning light, and get outside with them.
On the flip side, the hour before the sun sets is often known as "the golden hour" by photographers. Unlike in the morning when the tones are a little cooler, the sunset tones are rich and warm, and with every passing minute, the light just gets better and better. I have a website bookmarked on my computer that tells me the sunrise and sunset times of every single day. I use it to schedule my portrait sessions all year. This might be tough, particularly in the summer when the sun isn't setting until long after dinner and little ones are getting sleepy- and cranky. But if the kids are up for it, spend the hour before sunset experimenting with your photography. You'll love the results.
Of course, mid-day works too, if you can find shade. And when it comes to toddlers, the best time- HANDS DOWN- is after nap time, WHENEVER that may be!
The weather is getting a bit warmer (or is that just wishful thinking?), so get out and experiment with different times of day. Let me know if you prefer the peaceful, cool tones of morning portraits, or the warm and luxurious colors of sunset. Try them both and let me know!