So.....What and when is "Golden Hour" exactly?
If you have ever decided to have a portrait session taken by a professional photographer, or even just have friends that dabble in photography, you very well may have heard the term "Golden Hour." But what exactly does that mean? Well, to a photographer, "Golden Hour" translates to gorgeous, dreamy, soft, golden light! (Cue the heart-eyes emoji.) In more clear definitions, however, it's the 2 hours immediately after the sun rises, and the 2 hours immediately before the sun sets. So, for example, if you live in Virginia Beach, like I do, the sun is scheduled to set at 7:00pm on this beautiful Fall evening. If I was to book a last-minute photoshoot for today, I would ideally want the session to start at 5:00pm and last up until 7:00pm at the latest, to be able to capture the most flattering light. Once the sun sets or gets too low in the sky, there's not enough light left to be able to properly expose your photo (unless you're using a flash or another external light source) without adding excessive grain/noise to the image.
Many people think that the best time to take photos is when it's super bright out and the sun is high in the sky. However, bright sunshine causes harsh shadows, which are unflattering. In addition, bright sunlight also causes people to squint, and let's face it -- no one ever saw a photo of themselves squinting and thought, "Wow, I look incredible!" As photographers, WE WANT YOU to love the photos of yourself, which is why we frequently suggest taking photos during Golden Hour. The light is dreamy, you often have beautiful sunsets in the sky as your backdrop, or gorgeous rays of light peeking through trees, and the way the light makes the colors of nature looks so vibrant -- trust me, you want all of these elements for your photoshoot!
So, what are the downsides of shooting during Golden Hour? Well, for starters, there's a finite timeline you have to stick within. If you're not naturally an early riser, or you are perpetually always running 20 minutes late, a morning golden hour session is probably not for you. If the sun rises at 7:00am, and you don't show up until 7:20am, you've lost 20 valuable minutes of "good light." Once the sun gets too high in the sky, that's when -- yep, you guessed it -- the harsh shadows and squinting come back into play. Likewise, if you're running late for an evening Golden Hour session, the sky is getting darker and darker with every passing minute. When it comes to priorities for photography, "good light" is at the top of the list! So, it's super important to be on time for your Golden Hour sessions, so your photographer is able to capture as many beautiful photos of you as possible! When you see the finished photos of yourself, you will understand why Golden Hour is considered "prime-time" in Photographyland.