So you’re planning your wedding day timeline or trying to figure out when your photo session should be. Why do so many photographers suggest taking photos at ‘golden hour’?
What is golden hour?
As long as it’s not a completely overcast, cloudy day, golden hour occurs twice every day: in the hour or so right before sunrise and right after sunset. Obviously, one of these is more popular for clients and photographers alike (there’s a reason why there are so many ‘crack of dawn’ jokes out there)!
During this time, the sun is close to the horizon line and casts a warm, golden glow over things. If there are a few clouds in the sky, you might see them turn those beautiful cotton candy pink, purple, and orange colors. Then, all of a sudden a unicorn jumps by and fairies flit around.
Okay, so we made that last part up! BUT this is what golden hour can feel like: magical.
So why make sure you schedule your session at that time or build time into your wedding day timeline for golden hour portraits? Read three reasons below!
*Note: In the double photos in this post, the photos on the left were all taken while the sun was higher in the sky, while the photos on the right all were taken at golden hour!
Reason #1: Even light
As we mentioned, during the golden hour time, the sun is closer to the horizon. Because we LOVE the look of natural light in our work, we’re always on the lookout for the way light falls on our subjects. At golden hour, the light is going to fall much more evenly, creating beautiful skin tones and less harsh shadows. The next time you’re outside on a bright, sunny day, try taking a few photos with your phone. You might notice that either a) your face is well-lit because you’re facing the sun, but you’re squinting, b) you’re facing away from the sun and your face is completely in shadow, or c) the sun is directly overhead and there are big shadows cast under your eyes! This is why golden hour is so great — it eliminates a lot of those problems.
That being said, we know that sometimes sessions have to be scheduled outside of the golden hour timeframe, especially if your wedding timeline doesn’t allow for it or your session has to be scheduled at a specific time (maybe because you’re including kids!). We know how to make any light look good and use tons of tricks to make sure your photos are beautiful no matter what. For example, we found a shady area in the photo of Amanda and Spencer (above, left) until the sun was lower (above, right) and casted that golden glow. The photo of Marie and David below was taken around 11 am and it’s one of our favorites. Don’t fret if you can’t make golden hour work!
Reason #2: It cools down
Oh, those warm, sticky North Carolina days. It seems like for a majority of the year, we just sweat it out. Another reason that a golden hour session is great is because it usually cools down during that time of day! Just look at Amy’s sisters, below! It was so hot at Amy and Richard’s wedding ceremony that they literally have fans (plus, do you see the heavy shadows being cast?). But then look at the two lovebirds during their golden hour portraits on the right — not a drop of sweat in sight!
Golden hour is such a great time for portraits because it’s literally more comfortable during that time of day. We can’t guarantee huge temperature drops in the middle of the summer, but generally, the weather will be more pleasant than if you opted for a session in the middle of the day.
Reason #3: That golden glow
Now make no mistake, Natalie looked great walking down the aisle with her dad. It’s hard NOT to when you’re walking toward the love of your life to marry him! But do you see that ‘hot spot’ on her shoulder and the way her dad is squinting? While harder to fix during your ceremony, by making sure you schedule some time for you and your love at golden hour on your wedding day, you can have photos with more flattering lighting. In the photo on the right, which we took at golden hour during their reception, we just love that golden glow in the background. In fact, Natalie and Justin themselves seem to be glowing! This is just one of the places where ‘golden hour’ gets its name — the resulting images seem to have a golden glow to them. That’s the type of photo we love to create for our couples, and that’s why we think it’s a great idea to include golden hour portraits on your wedding day in your timeline or to schedule your session around golden hour. We stole them away for some moments alone for just 15 minutes, but we think that photo is going to last a lifetime.
A note on indoor sessions or bad weather
If you have an indoor session (for example, a newborn session) or if there is going to be rainy weather on your day, the golden hour rule doesn’t apply! Instead, make sure you work with your photographer to figure out what will work best for you in terms of photography! For indoor sessions, we’re always on the lookout for the best light in your house and for days with bad weather, we’ll look for spots that are covered to take photos or near a window to get as much of that natural light as possible if we simply cannot go outside!