Even if you aren’t a Washington, DC wedding photographer, you’ve probably heard the term Golden Hour before. And through common sense, you are probably able to figure out that it has something to do with sunrise and sunset. But do you know why this is so important in the world of photography?
Why does Golden Hour matter?
As someone who primarily shoots their sessions outdoors, in natural light, there are a lot of factors to consider when planning — location, time of year, crowds, etc — but most important of all is light. A beautiful location is absolutely nothing without the proper light. Why? Because unless there is open shade available, we cannot shoot there. During the middle of the day, you are limited to areas of open shade — where you are just inside the shade so you can still get natural light on your faces without actually being in the light or without being so deep that your skin looks blue!
The best way to avoid this is to shoot during the Golden Hour(s), the 30-45 minutes following sunrise/preceding sunset, when the sun is in that perfect spot to create a soft, warm glow that you cannot get mid day. Mid-day light creates very harsh shadows (think bags under your eyes!), blown out highlights, and is overall unflattering for skin tones. In comparison, the light during golden hour is much less contrasty, creating butter-soft skin and soft shadows.
When is Golden Hour?
I probably don’t need to tell you that the sun rises and sets at dramatically different times throughout the year, however, this does make it a bit tricky when planning session times as it is always changing. Enter “Golden Hour” — an awesome iPhone app that will tell you the exact time for that day. Also www.sunrisesunset.com, where you can create an entire month long calendar which is crucial when planning engagement sessions weeks or even months in advance.
What about my wedding?
It goes without saying that your entire wedding cannot take place during Golden Hour. When arriving at your venue, one of the first things I always do is find a location for your first look, wedding party portraits, and family portraits. These will be the areas of open shade discussed above so that we can avoid the harsh, mid-day shadows. They may not be your favorite part of the property, but I promise that you will love your pictures so much more if you choose light over location! In order to embrace Golden Hour (and incorporate some of those “favorite” spots we may have missed earlier), I always request about 15 minutes for sunset portraits when we are developing your timeline. It typically ends up being in the middle of the reception, but most find it a welcomed break!
Oh and as if all that wasn’t enough, here is just a peek at what you can look forward to during Golden Hour!