The beauty of Golden Hour and how to harness its awesomeness at your wedding!
A wonderful article with words and images by Becky Harley Photography in Hertfordshire
Photographers talk a lot about ‘Golden Hour’, so you may have heard of it on instagram or from any photographers or wedding blogs you follow. But do you know exactly what golden hour is?
Is golden hour something we should consider when I’m booking a wedding photographer? What can we do to give ourselves the best chance of getting amazing golden hour wedding pics?
Think back to summer evenings full of sunshine – maybe you were on a beach one time, or walking in the countryside and the light just turned really golden. It happens before the sun sets: you’ll notice your shadows are really long and the sun’s low, close to the horizon – and everything’s bathed in golden light. This is the beauty of golden hour, and it’s one of our favourite things.
When the light gets like this at a wedding, I always do a happy dance. It’s amazing for a wedding photographer! And being totally honest, it’s not just at weddings that golden hour grabs me: my kids would tell you of the times I’ve sat them in the perfect position on the slide at the park, just to get a quick golden hour photo!
No one can guarantee golden hour on your wedding day. It’s not just a time of year thing: the weather and cloud cover are important, and then there’s the running order of your day. When the light’s at its very best you might be in the middle of dinner or speeches.
What exactly is golden hour?
The golden hour we talk about in the context of weddings is the hour just before sunset – when the sun is low in the sky in the evening, before it begins to set. (There’s also a golden hour just after sunrise, so you might catch that one if you’re an early bird – but probably not on your wedding day!) If you’re lucky you’ll catch the occasional sunrise golden hour in winter, when the days are shorter and the sun rises at the same time you’re on your way to work.
Photographers love golden hour for the soft light. Later on, the bright sunlight can be harsh, but in golden hour the sunlight is a beautiful ethereal golden colour. It’s very flattering, so it’s the perfect time to have some stunning and intimate wedding portraits.
I always make sure I know when golden hour will take place for every wedding (cloud conditions and so on permitting!) There’s a brilliant app I use called The Photographer’s Ephemeris – it tells me when to look out for that amazing light, so on your wedding day I’ll have one eye on the sky just in case! And if you’re happy for me to interrupt your dinner, I might even let you know so we can dash outside for five minutes and get those glorious golden hour photos!
So how can we get golden hour photos on our wedding day?
Choose the time of year carefully to give yourselves the very best chance of catching magical golden hour light. And ask your photographer about golden hour – it’s a promising sign if they’re happy to advise (and even more promising if they get all excited when you mention golden hour!) Timings are super important too: golden hour is earlier in the winter months, and much later on summer evenings. Once you’re aware of your golden hour time, plan your dinner, speeches and first dance times around it – just in case!
Golden hour essentials
- you’ll rarely be guaranteed a golden hour. It’s more often a 45 minute window of lovely light. Once the sun begins to set, time flies – so sometimes it’s worth being in the right place for as long as you can while the sun sinks lower. (Golden hour engagement shoots can be amazing when the light is just right!)
- often there’s no golden hour – so don’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen on your wedding day. Bad weather, cloud cover and so on make all the difference. It’s not impossible to get stunning golden hour wedding pics if it’s raining though – Laura & Ben had some gorgeous light at their Hertfordshire wedding – take a look!
- lastly, consider your venue: is there a clear view to the horizon in the west? If your reception venue has lots of tall trees, or the buildings block the light and there’s no garden or open land on the western side, you might not be able to have golden hour photos there.
So now you’re a golden hour whizz and ready to dream about golden hour photos on your wedding day! Just remember, if you’re not blessed with golden light on your day, your photographer will still get all the fabulous shots you’ll love – it’s all about the light, and there are so many ways to make the most of all kinds of light and weather conditions!
Hertfordshire wedding photographer Becky Harley is an English Wedding member