What Is Golden Hour and Why Does it Matter? - baileycrossphotography.com

What Is Golden Hour and Why Does it Matter?

If you have ever looked at Instagram, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Golden Hour. Also called “magic hour,” there’s a good reason that it’s so popular among photographers and lovers alike!

What is Golden Hour?

Golden hour, while not technically an hour, is the time just after sunrise or just before sunset when the sun is low in the sky. On most days during this time (with the exception of super cloudy days!) the lighting is the absolute BEST! It has a very soft, dream-like quality that creates gorgeous portraits. This glowy light limits harsh shadows and can help make skin look extra smooth and creates warm, vibrant colors in your images.

When is the best time to schedule my session for golden hour in the morning?

Since sunrise changes daily, the best way to figure out what time to start your sunrise session is to look up sunrise in the time zone of that location for the day of your session. I always like to start about 15 minutes before sunrise to  make sure we are able to get into the perfect position to catch it as it rises.

When is the best time to schedule my session for golden hour in the evening?  

Just like sunrise, sunset changes each day as well. Depending on how long your session is, I like to time it so we end just after the sun disappears over the horizon, or about 5 minutes after the official sun set.

Are there exceptions?

Yes! There are a few factors that can come into play when determining when the lighting will be best. The two biggest ones that I run into are locations in the mountains and foothills, and locations in the city.

Both mountains and buildings can block the sun significantly later in the morning and earlier in the evening than locations with unobstructed views. When this happens, one of my favorite tools to use to determine exactly when the sun will make its appearance or disappear for the day is Google Earth Pro. Unlike its cousin, Google Earth, Google Earth Pro is a FREE application that must be downloaded to your desktop. It allows you to pull up a 3D version of the location you’re shooting at, enter in the date and time you’re considering for your session (be sure to pay attention to time zone!) and see exactly where the sun will be throughout the day!

I will always be a resource to help determine the best time to start if you’d rather not have to learn a new tool, but it’s super fun to play around with if you’re curious!  

Why not shoot at other times? I am only available at noon!  

While I’m always prepared to shoot in any lighting scenario (and often do when shooting weddings!), I love to set my couples up for the best experience possible, which includes choosing a time with the most flattering light. When the sun is high in the sky or directly overhead, it often creates dark shadows on people’s faces, causes a lot of squinting (that sun can be brutal on the eyes!), and is not as flattering. If mid-day is the only time available, while not ideal, it’s not the end of the world! We’ll simply find a source of shade to shoot under to help soften the light (trees, bushes, or buildings can all work great!)

Taylor & TJ’s engagement session and Patricia & Jerry’s elopement are both awesome examples of that gorgeous golden hour glow!

Ready to schedule your Golden Hour session? Let’s chat!

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