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What is Golden Hour & Why Do Photographers Love It So Much?

It's no secret that I and so many photographers love shooting during golden hour. What the heck is golden hour and why do photographers love it so much? These questions and more will be answered in this blog post, so hopefully you can understand why your photographer wants to schedule a session with you so late (or so early)!

Golden hour is a period (usually an hour long depending on the season and your latitude) shortly after sunrise and before sunset when the sun is low in the sky, producing a unique quality of light that is highly prized in photography.

I love photographing during golden hour for the following reasons:

  • Soft, Warm Light: The light during golden hour is softer and warmer compared to the harsh mid-day sun. This gentle light enhances your pet's features and fur, giving them a flattering, natural look.

  • Reduced Shadows: The lower angle of the sun minimizes strong shadows and harsh contrasts. This is particularly beneficial for capturing the finer details of your pet's face and fur.

  • Enhanced Colors: The warm tones of golden hour light enrich the colors captured by my camera, making your pet's coat and the surrounding environment appear more vibrant and appealing.

  • Catchlights in Eyes: The angle and quality of golden hour light often create beautiful catchlights in your pet’s eyes, adding life and sparkle to the portrait.

  • Pleasant Environment: Golden hour typically occurs during the early morning or late evening, times when the environment is more pleasant and cooler. Pets are often more comfortable and relaxed, leading to better, more natural expressions and poses.

  • Atmospheric Effects: The potential for dramatic skies and a golden glow adds an extra layer of beauty and interest to the background, enhancing the overall mood of the gallery.

  • Fewer Distractions: There are usually fewer people and other pets out during golden hour, which leads to a session with fewer distractions. This can make or break a session with a reactive or easily distracted pet!

If you reach out to book a session with me around June, there's a pretty good chance I give you a timeframe around 8 pm to start the session. I know that sounds late. It feels crazy to me to start an activity that late, too! I love going to bed early and getting a full night's rest, but you can't replicate the effects of golden hour at any other time... unless, of course, you'd rather start your session at 5 am... In which case, I'll need a boatload of coffee, but I'm down!

A follow-up question you might have to all of this information:

"How can I determine when golden hour will be three months from now (or whenever) on my trip or at my house or the local park?"

Great question! I use an app called Alpenglow on my phone which allows me to type in a location and select a date in the future and it tells me, down to the minute, when golden hour (morning and evening) will be. It also shares when it will be first light, daylight, last light, blue hour, etc. Everything you could ever want to know about timing a session. I use this app for 100% of photo sessions booked, whether it ends up being during golden hour or not. (Sometimes sessions can only happen in the middle of the day, and I understand that). The app predicts the 'quality' of the sunrise and sunset, too, but I'm not sure I know what they consider to be a "good" sunrise/sunset, so I don't worry too much about it. I prefer to look at the predicted cloud cover around the session time to gauge how much sun we will have for the session.

Since a photography blog is incomplete without photos, here are some examples from a recent golden hour photo session with Lucy to show you the soft, warm, glowy, flattering light that can be achieved when shooting at golden hour.

I hope this information has been enlightening, whether you're just curious about photography or wondering why I want to book a session at such a late/early hour! Please leave a comment if you have any questions about golden hour photography. I'd love to help if I can!

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