Golden Hour is Important

Why is golden hour important?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned (and learned the hard way over and over) is the importance of scheduling sessions during golden hour. If you’re interested in booking a family session with me, you’ll find that I do all of my sessions in the 60-90 minutes before the sun sets. It’s known as golden hour because the light is soft and golden and can be pretty dreamy! It’s the reason why you might see photographers (especially me) start to drool when they catch the perfectly glowing sunset. I may or may not have a mini panicky moment when I catch the perfect sunset and I don’t have a session or my camera in my hand!

Because you may not realize that photography is all about light. When you really love an image, and you can’t figure out exactly what makes it spectacular to you beyond the actual moment captured, chances are it’s the light!

In my first year of business, I would bend on my session start times all the time. Clients would ask me to start their sessions in mid morning or late afternoon in the middle of the summer. And I always would even though I was beginning to understand that sunset was the time to shoot. I did this for a few reasons:

  1. I was afraid to say no because I simply wasn’t confident enough yet.
  2. I was nervous to lose booking clients.
  3. I wasn’t confident in the time it took me to shoot a session, so I would start earlier just in case.
  4. I hadn’t thoroughly discovered or established my style yet.

The outcome was always frustrating to me. I spent time obsessing over other photographers’ work lamenting that mine wasn’t as magical. And it frequently boiled down to session time and lighting.

Finally last year, I started to be insistent on my session start times because I realized that I love golden hour and the edits I produce when I shoot during that time. My shooting and editing style became more consistent because the lighting conditions were always similar. I found the confidence to educate my clients and explain my reasoning for shooting when I did. It became pretty simple: If a client wants images of their family that are consistent with the work I post and showcase, then golden hour is when it happens. If a golden hour session isn’t a possibility, I apologize and have to refer them to a photographer whose style is consistent with sessions at earlier times.

I know that sounds harsh, and it isn’t intended to be. It’s crucial to my style. It’s crucial to delivering images that are consistent with what my clients expect to receive based on what I continually put out into the world. Basically it’s all about everyone’s happiness and a quality and exceptional experience from start to finish!

I know this can be tricky with little ones, especially in the summer hours. In order to have a session with me, I’ve had families push naptime to later, have a late dinner, and bring lots of snacks and bribes for their kiddos. I also encourage mom and dad to bring a favorite lovey that we can pull out if needed. It definitely helps and sometimes those images with the lovey are some of our favorites. Because they capture real life!

Usually we are so busy having fun during our session that the kiddos hang in there just fine. My style doesn’t involve very many super-posed, everyone has to be smiling at the camera shots. We get those out of the way at the beginning and then it’s all about connection and capturing moments, which usually include lots of laughs and snuggles. I can often be heard saying, “Don’t look at me! Look at each other!” I move quickly and we jump back and forth between full group and smaller group compositions. We also take plenty of snack breaks and give the kiddos time to decompress.

A Little Visual Comparison

These images were both taken during my first year, and they were both shot in the early morning hours. For the most part they aren’t terrible, but they also don’t have that zing. That something that makes you love them. They are what you’d expect of someone about six months into their photography business. But aside from the beautiful people in them and the love the families share, there isn’t much beautiful about the light. In both images the sunlight is harsh and creates harsh shadows and a flat looking image.

examples of sessions in early morning harsh light

The image below is a world apart, and let’s look at why. Because sunset was about 30 minutes away, the sun was very low in the sky and partially hidden behind the line of trees across the pond. Because of its low point in the sky, the shadows and light falling across the grass and pond are soft and warm. There is a slight bit of sun flare coming above their heads, and that is creating the pretty glow around their hairline, which is called rim lighting. That glowing halo is everything to me in most images!

Virginia Beach Family Photographer Golden Hour Sunset Photo

Here’s another example of what can be done just as the sun is setting. This is when I act quickly because we usually only have a few minutes of this kind of light! When the sun is just about to disappear, you can create effects like this. There is a subtle amount of rim lighting around little man’s hat and his mom’s hairline, but that sunburst is simply perfect and well-defined. You cannot get that kind of light during a session in the middle of the day!

the importance of golden hour shooting virginia beach family photographer sun burst mom and son

Meaningful and beautiful moments will always trump everything else for me. But in order to create an image that showcases those kinds of moments in the best way, the light is a crucial component.

If you’re interested in stunning light and beautiful moments, contact me to schedule a session! If you’re a photographer and would like to chat about all the geeky photographer things, send me a message!