The Golden Hour Glow

August 28, 2019

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If you have been following any photographer for any amount of time you have most likely heard about THE GOLDEN HOUR. I’m sure you’re wondering what that means and why photographer’s freak out about those portraits. So today I’m sharing why I love the golden hour and why I recommend photographing my clients during this soft glow called the Golden Hour!

From my experience, this glow-y light is best about 1-2 hours after sunrise and 1-2 hours before sunset. The Golden Hour is simply the timeframe where the sun isn’t quite set but has a soft glow at your portrait location! Photographers love this light because it:

  1. Makes our clients look AMAZING
  2. Our portrait posing isn’t as limited
  3. It creates a romantic feel for your portraits
  4. It helps make our editing process a bit easier (at least it does for us!)
  5. And no matter what there is always a unique sunset to follow!

This is the best lighting and the reason why we love to book our engagement sessions 1-2 hours after sunrise or before sunset! I like to know the reason why for things and teaching my brides about the light is important to me.

I know thats probably weird to hear from a wedding photographer but for me, I think it really helps with creating a beautiful final gallery of their wedding day! My couples want beautiful images and often book venues that have the perfect locations with stunning golden hour views!

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Wedding Day & Session Tips

This perfect portrait light is gone so quickly. That is why I stress to my couples to set aside time right when the light is best! It doesn’t matter if it’s an engagement session or wedding day, this 1-2 hour window will fly by! Depending on the weather this timeframe can change. If it is overcast or cloudy there really isn’t much of a true golden hour glow to work with. However, there is still glow while the sun up, it’s just a bit more subtle!

Since this time will be fleeting we like to save this best light for bride and groom portraits. I know bridal party photos and family formals are important but bride and groom portraits are so important to my couples. This is a huge reason why we recommend sharing first looks! Sharing a first look allows for all the photos besides family formals to be finished before the ceremony.

After the ceremony we fly through family formals to enjoy a second round of bonus portraits with our couple! This allows our newly weds to enter their reception so much sooner (which means the guests get food faster and stay longer). The second round of golden hour glow photos are not rushed because we know that we have so many other portraits from before the ceremony!

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Harsh Light & Skin Tones

Harsh light would be when the sun is at its highest position in the sky. Without any shade, this light can be difficult to photograph portraits in. This is the light that makes you squint and need sun glasses! The light is not harsh on your hair and skin making the over all photo have a soft look it! I am sharing two images of Michaela and Zach (below) that show you an example of the two different lights we are talking about! We are visual learners so I hope this helps!

The top photo of them walking is very harsh light that is honestly a little too bright for my liking but I love this image from their wedding day! The second photo of them is taken during that golden hour window! The slight glow on them adds a soft romantic touch to this photo and I am sure you can tell that this photo has the feel that fits their garden wedding at Virginia Tech!

James and I have a way to work around harsh light however, the portraits just don’t have that soft glow to them! Take this photos for example… Their skin tones and glow in the images are noticeably different! I absolutely love both images but hopefully you can tell which one has a more soft and romantic look. This golden hour light is the BEST for your natural skin tone! Whether you have a spray tan, have a naturally darker tone, or you’re as pale as me, all skin tones look best at this time of day.

Unfortunately some couples miss out on this light because of a rushed post-ceremony portrait time. I know that first looks have given our couples the perfect opportunity to have beautiful golden hour glow portraits (just another reason I love first looks!!). Which leads me to my next point that really impacts my Fall and Winter couples!!

I am sharing two images of Michaela and Zach that show you an example of the two different lights we are talking about! We are visual learners so I hope this helps!

Fall & Winter Couples

For my fall and winter brides the timing of this is a little bit trickier. For this time of year I highly recommend sharing a first look if you plan an on evening ceremony. Once the sun goes down our natural light photography style that you see on my blogs is no longer possible! The golden hour moves with the sun so for my fall and winter weddings it is SO important to take advantage of the time we have with the sun. James and I use flash set up for the receptions but do not use flashes for portrait time. I can share about my light set up in the future if you like!

For weddings this time of year, I would recommend a morning or afternoon ceremony if you do not want to share a first look. I know that first looks are not for everyone but I don’t want my fall and winter brides to miss out on the golden hour! I have actually always wanted to photograph a morning or early afternoon ceremony!! How unique would this be for your guests and family?!

Bonus tip: Another point I’d like to add that has nothing to do with the golden hour is, while the sun is out its significantly warmer! So when you are out in frigid temperatures you will enjoy that sunny glow as we are all suffering outside for the sake of beautiful photographs!

Having an evening ceremony and not sharing a first look creates a rushed timeline, stressful family formals, a shortened bridal party gallery delivered. Which as a result means a severely reduced bride & groom portraits gallery. I know that sounds really really harsh but I want to be honest with you so that you will understand why your final gallery doesn’t have the variety you’d like and what I work really hard to provide my couples. By sharing a first look, we get all of the photos finished up before the ceremony begins leaving only family formals and a bonus bride and groom portrait time during the golden hour light.

I hope you learned something new about the golden hour! Send me your questions on Instagram!!

Until next time,


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The Golden Hour Glow

The Golden Hour Glow

The Golden Hour Glow

The Golden Hour Glow