Photography Tips and Tricks

March 1, 2019

What is Golden Hour?

When I first got started doing photography, I thought there was only one type of light.  There was light and there was dark and that was it.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  Over the years, I’ve had the chance to work with and study the effects of different types of light in my images and have found that one type of light outshines (pun intended) them all!  That is the infamous GOLDEN HOUR!  Today I’m sharing what golden hour is and why it is important for your photos!

What is golden hour?

Let me start by saying that while I can (and do) shoot indoors where there is artificial light, natural light is always my preference.  Natural light is simply the light from the sun.  As it’s name implies, natural light tends to look softer and more natural, creates true-to-life colors, and is often more flattering than artificial light.  When I first arrive at a wedding or portrait location, the first thing I do is assess where the best natural light is.  Even indoors, I’ll often open the curtains and shoot by a window or large door!  One thing’s for sure, I won’t begin shooting until I find the best light.

When it comes to scheduling outdoor portraits, the best light is always going to be two hours before sunset, or golden hour.  At this point the sun starts to sink lower in the sky, the shadows become longer and softer, and the air has a glow to it.  All these factors combine to make gorgeous portraits.  Skin tones are soft and wrinkles seem to disappear.  It seems like magic, but it’s really all lighting!

So how does this affect your portrait session?  Since the light is so beautiful at this time of day, I always try to schedule my portrait sessions so that they start 2 hours before sunset.  On a wedding day, this looks a little different as portrait time often falls in the middle of the afternoon.  If the portrait time happens significantly before golden hour, I’ll often pull the bride and groom for a few additional portraits during the reception when the sun is getting lower.  That way we still get the most out of that golden light and they don’t miss too much of their reception!

See for yourself!

Now that you know what golden hour is, here are some of my favorite photos taken in that dreamy golden light!  These images were all taken at the same session (a lighting workshop!).  The first set of images was taken at the beginning of the session when the sun was still somewhat high in the sky.  While the lighting is still beautiful, it’s nothing compared to the next set of images, taken during the best part of golden hour!

what is golden hour, Samantha Ludlow Photography, Syracuse photographer

These images had to be taken in the woods or in diffused sunlight because the sun was still high in the sky.

what is golden hour, Samantha Ludlow Photography, Syracuse photographer

These images showcase the best of that golden sunlight! You can tell why they call it “golden hour!”


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