February 11, 2020

Tips for Finding and Shooting in Golden Hour Light | Lorton, VA Family Photography

In my previous post I talked about what exactly Golden Hour is and some reasons family photographers like it. Now that we know what Golden Hour means, let’s chat about how to find it and how to use it for great photos. The warm glow, sun flare, or hazy look may not be everyone’s style but if you want to know how to achieve those kinds of photos then read on!

When I started my business and was location scouting I wasted so much time. Like a ridiculous amount of hours driving around, checking out spots, and to top it off I was doing all of this at the wrong time of day. I have learned a lot since then! Now I know the best time to figure out when Golden Hour is at a location is visiting at Golden Hour. Duh. The thing is, Golden Hour is technically the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. But I live in Virginia where we have hills and thick tree lines. Sometimes the sun goes behind the ridge-line or down into the thick of the trees way before sunset. I learned this lesson the hard way by taking clients out and then secretly feeling rushed as I could see the sun slipping away. So when is Golden Hour? It depends on the location. Sure, the sun won’t be as warm and low, but you work with what you have. Always check out your location at the time you want to be shooting so you can see where and when the sun becomes unavailable. 

After you feel comfortable at your location, now its time to utilize that beautiful warm sun to your advantage. Here are a couple ways to get that glow in your photos: backlight, rim light, lens flare, light from the side, and silhouettes. Backlighting is putting the subject between you and the sun so the light is behind them. You can use trees, clouds, your subject, or a building to help filter the sun. How much sun you let into your lens and at what angle is going to completely change the image. Rim light is also backlighting, but the sun hits at a slight angle and touches the edges of your subject. This may help make your subjects pop a bit. Lens flare is fun, but is one of the harder ones for me if I’m being honest. Lens flare is when bright light enters your lens, hits your sensor and scatters to make this beautiful flare and adds dimension to your photo. This can really be done at any time of day, but warm flares are only achieved at Golden Hour. Silhouettes are when your subjects are completely dark with a bright background. I find these visually attractive and a great way to show off your surrounding environment or detail in the sky.