What is “Golden Hour”?
Every now and then you may hear photographers use the term “golden hour”. But what does it really mean, and why do photographers love golden hour? Read more and you’ll realize why this time of shooting is ideal, and you’ll fall in love with golden hour, too! Here are some photos from Kendra and Josh’s engagement session in Pomfret, Connecticut. (They are getting married today! at the Mansion at Bald Hill! Can’t wait to see you guys today!)
Golden hour officially is that time within one hour after sunrise, OR within one hour before sunset time. During other parts of the day, the sun is higher in the sky, at a higher angle, and often times the sunlight on a very clear and sunny day falls on people’s faces is harsh, creating harsher shadows in places where we wouldn’t want to contrasty shadows! In the photography world, we love photos of people where any light falling on the subject is a soft, soft light, where the transition from highlight (the lightest parts of the image) to shadow is a gradual, soft transition.
Couldn’t resist throwing in this photo of their cutest dog EVER! She’s a bashful puppy, and was in grass heaven. Most of the engagement photos I take involve dogs as well, because they’re such an important part of our lives! Imagine if I took this puppy photo during high, noonday sun… the photo would NOT make this dog look warm, soft, and cuddly!
During golden hour, the sun sets over the tree tops, sunrays shine through the leaves, making the foliage background all glittery, sparkly, and fabulous! These photos were not photo-shopped at all. There’s no need to fix images if you get them right in the camera! Settings make all the difference. I typically shoot with a wide aperture. For those of you who have DSLR cameras like a Canon Rebel, please don’t keep shooting on “Auto”! You can see that your camera has a setting called Av or A…this is where you control your aperture or “f-stop”. When you shoot at a lower number, you’ll get this blurry, beautiful background which makes the people “pop” out of the image.
Another big reason why golden hour photo sessions are fabulous, is because often times your subject or people are in even exposure. Because the sun is lower, beyond the trees, there are a lot more longer, broader, and bigger shadows over your landscape. This means that Kendra and Josh’s skin are evenly exposed–one person’s skin isn’t “brighter” or “darker” than the other. They are standing in a very soft light in the air. Often times I shoot with the sunset behind the couple for a soft backlight. Being golden hour, this back light is super soft and beautiful!
They call it “golden hour” because you can see that the sunlight is more golden as well. It’s not as harsh as during the day time, because the sun is not as bright. When the light is not as bright, you’ll see colors better as the light and shadows are more “balanced” across a landscape. The angle of light is from the side, “raking” across patterns of leaves, grass, and flowers.
Because life is so precious, one of the last things I typically ask the couples to do right before the sun goes down in the session, is to have them imagine as if this was their last moment on earth together. It may sound so sad and awful, but the reality of Love is that you can’t take each other for granted. Often times photographers just photograph a couple just to get some kisses and hugs, but I feel that sometimes we forget that we as photographers are very privileged to be invited into the lives of very special people to witness and document souls that are intertwined together. As the sun disappears, I ask each of them to think about why you love each other, and imagine as if this was your last kiss, your last hug, your last good-bye. And do this every day, because life is precious!