What is Golden Hour?

Wedding Tips

Golden Hour vs. Direct Sunlight

Golden Hour

If you’re planning a wedding or portrait session you will hear your photographer mention how import golden hour is. So, what is golden hour?

Before learning photography, I had never heard of golden hour and didn’t know how magical that light could be. Golden hour happens twice a day -after sunrise and before the sunset. Morning golden hour usually happens from sunrise to an hour after sunrise. So, if sunrise was at 6am than golden hour would be from 6-7am. Evening golden hour happens an hour before the sunset. If the sunset at 8pm then golden hour would be from 7-8pm.

If you see from the examples below, golden hour creates beautiful soft light. The soft light illuminates the couple and is not distracting. It also creates even light from head to toe, which is really important for portraits.

Harsh and Direct Sunlight

But what if golden hour isn’t an option for you? I have photographed in harsh direct sunlight; there is still a way to get great portraits! When photographing in direct sunlight, I still need my clients to have even light from head to toe. If the sun is really harsh like in early afternoon (as in the family photos on the beach below), I was have my clients face their shadows. That allows my clients to have even light and the harsh light is behind them. You can use this trick whenever you are in a harsh light situation!

Sometimes if the sun is less harsh, I will have my clients face the sun completely. This allows my clients to have even direct light from head to toe. This type of lighting gives off a very different vibe then the lighting mentioned above.

Important Take Aways

To recap: Golden hour is soft lighting that happens twice a day – in the morning right after sunrise and in the evening an hour before sunset. But if you are in a direct lighting situation outside of golden hour, your photographer should have you face your shadows with the harsh light behind you or have you face the sun to make sure you are getting even lighting from head to toe.

For weddings, I always schedule golden hour portraits! There will usually be a mix of harsh lighting and golden hour portraits at weddings. What’s important is that your photographer knows how to handle both lighting situations.

Below are examples of all lighting situations!

Golden Hour Portraits:

Lincoln-Memorial-National-Mall-Sunrise-Session, Marie windsor Photography, National Mall Engagement Photos
Great-Marsh-Estate-Wedding, Marie Windsor Photography, Northern Virginia Wedding Photographer, Great Marsh Estate Wedding Photographer

Direct/Harsh Sunlight Portraits:

Washington-DC-Cherry-Blossom-Sunset-Engagement, National Mall engagement photos, Marie Windsor Photography, Washington DC Wedding Photographer

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