You might have heard some photographer’s mention the term "golden hour". No, it's not the time when the kids finally go to bed. So what does it really mean? Is it right for your photos? And are there any cons to golden hour photos? I receive a lot repeat questions around golden hour photography sessions, so I have complied them here into this quick guide for your reference.

At its simplest, Golden Hour is a time of day that is going to give you what many consider to be the best natural lighting for your images. If you’ve ever seen a photo where the rays of sunlight seem to be barreling in softly, with no one squinting in harsh sun, and the overall image has softer and longer shadows, then you’ve most likely seen a photograph taken during golden hour.

What’s cool about Golden Hour is that it actually happens twice a day. From the first full hour after sunrise and  the last full hour before sunset giving us two different opportunities to have the family together in this great lighting. The hours directly before sunrise, and directly after sunset are instead referred to as “blue hour”, which have a completely different look and feel to the images. The special hour we are looking for means no harsh midday sun, and less need for additional lighting so you won’t feel awkward like you're standing on a movie set.

Golden hour sunshine on family with mom and dad kissing and two kids with pumpkins on pumpkin in fall

Having an option to take your photographs first thing in the morning may be a perfect solution for many. If your kiddos are early to bed and early to rise, then the morning golden hour might be the best time of day for you. In the shorter months, you don’t even have to be up any earlier than you normally might be. You can easily start around 7 or even 8am. Almost like a regular school day routine. Hello coffee!

Realistically though, an evening session is going to be the most accommodating option for families and couples dreaming of golden hour portraits. You have the ability to sleep in, go about your whole day, and even get a full dinner so no one is hangry during the session. If you have family members who might be traveling to join in your portraits, this evening session should give them no excuses to arrive on time.

When it comes to downsides of golden hour photography the biggest challenge is time. I get it though. We are busy people. Our kids forget the sweater we took out for them, or your favorite person forgot to top off the gas tank, and it's so easy to end up 15 minutes behind. When booking golden hour sessions, you are working with limited time before it gets too dark to photograph without needing additional light. So it's critical to create that buffer of shuffling into the car an extra 15 minutes early.

Pro tip: just tell everyone the session starts 30 minutes earlier ;)

golden hour maternity photo of mom in blue dress kissing baby boy in the leaves

If you are considering creating some new family portraits for your home, requesting the golden hour time of day will put you all in a great mood as the sunlight hits your skin. Allowing you and your loved ones to open up those big warm natural smiles.

Hi I’m Mike. I’m a family portrait photographer, specializing in documenting authentic moments with a natural feel that is as real as it gets. I look for interaction between your family that occurs freely, so that every time you look at your walls you remember exactly how you felt the day you took that photograph. To book your next outdoor family portrait session and create heirloom quality art to share with your family, click the button below to get started!