What is golden hour and why should I care?

Young girl sitting on the edge of a dock at sunset

Have you ever been scrolling through your feed and been stopped in your tracks by a beautiful, glowing photograph? Ever wondered how to capture the same thing in your photos? Chances are, nine times out of ten this type of photograph was taken during what photographers refer to as “golden hour”: that beautiful time just after sunrise or before sunset when the sun casts a warm, soft glow. It’s the time of day you can’t help but fall in love with the light.

Why does this “golden hour” produce the most beautiful photos? Light. Light is the medium for photography, and the light that happens when the sun is close to the horizon is warmer (golden) and more diffuse. There are many ways to use this light, and one of my favourite ways is back-lighting, where I’ll place my subjects between me and the setting sun. This often produces a soft, warm glow around them and beautiful highlights. Sometimes you need to move around a bit to find that ideal spot where the sun isn’t too bright that you get too much haze in your photo – I often look for areas where I can partially block the light (think trees, fences, even use your hand if you need to).

Don’t feel like you always need to use back-lighting however – move around your kids, explore different angles and vantage points! I’ve been bringing my camera out with the intention of NOT ending up with a great photograph, but just to practice exploring different angles and lighting. Waiting until just before the sun sets to capture that warm glow on your kids faces is beautiful, and experimenting with long shadows is always fun.

Homework (yes, it’s not just for our now home-schooled kids): take your camera, phone, whatever out over the next few days. Aim for early morning or right before bedtime to catch that beautiful glow. Experiment with some golden hour shooting and play around with what you like best!

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Greater Toronto area family and newborn photographer providing authentic, lifestyle photography
 for people who love to play, laugh, and have epic adventures.