On your wedding day, you’ll have a few opportunities for photos – some couples take photos after their first look, some take photos after the ceremony, and some take photos at golden hour. Most couples do some combination of all of these! As a wedding photographer, I recommend that absolutely every couple do some golden hour wedding photos – and here’s why!
What are Golden Hour Wedding Photos?
First things first, what the heck is golden hour?
The exact definition of golden hour is the period where the sun is between 4° below and 6° above the horizon – but don’t worry, you don’t need to get all technical. This happens about an hour before sunset, when the sun is getting lower in the sky, and the light makes everything glow in a stunning golden colour.
This time of day makes for some incredible photos, with amazing golden light and your wedding venue can look totally different than it did in the middle of the day!
Reasons to Take Golden Hour Wedding Photos
Now, let’s talk about some reasons to take golden hour wedding photos, and why they’re the best!
The first, and probably most important reason to take golden hour wedding photos is that the light is just amazing! Have you ever tried to take a selfie in the middle of the day, and found that you had harsh shadows under your nose, and under your eyes? When the sun is shining directly overhead (in the middle of the day), it creates these dramatic shadows that just don’t look super flattering. At golden hour, the sun is low in the sky, so it creates much more even light over the entire landscape. Without the dramatic shadows, your photos will look even more incredible, and the golden glow around you also creates a really magical, ethereal effect!
No Squinting at the Sun!
Another perk of the sun not being directly overhead is that it won’t shine into your eyes! When you take golden hour wedding photos, you won’t have to squint, which will also lead to some better photos, and will just make for a more comfortable experience for you.
During golden hour, the temperature is pretty perfect – before the sun sets completely, it’s still pretty warm, but it’s not as hot as it may have been during the day. If your wedding is in the summer, or if it’s just warm, taking photos for a long time during the middle of the day can get pretty exhausting – golden hour gives you the perfect opportunity to run around and get some amazing photos with your partner, without feeling like you need to get back into the air conditioned reception hall ASAP!
More Variety for Your Wedding Photos
Another perk of adding golden hour wedding photos to your timeline is that you can get some variety in the backdrops of your photos. Earlier in the day, you’ll probably have taken some photos with your wedding party, with your family, and probably some couples photos too. Many couples schedule two blocks of time for their couples photos – usually after the first look if you do one, or after the ceremony if you don’t, and then again at golden hour.
Doing this gives you more time for couples photos, which means you can get some variety in the backdrops you choose! Many wedding venues have multiple spots that are great for photos – and some spots may work better at different times of day. For example, if there’s a shaded area in the trees, this can be great mid day – the shade will provide some coverage from the sun, eliminating those harsh shadows. Then, if you have a big open field somewhere, this will be an amazing spot for golden hour photos! That field that was really open and exposed to the sun during the middle of the day will be absolutely amazing as the sun starts to set.
You’ll also have some variety and lighting for your wedding photos – while golden hour is beautiful, different parts of the day can have some different advantages! A good photographer can work even with the harsh sun, so when you get your photos back, you’ll have some variety in how they look.
It’s a Calmer Part of the Wedding Day
Another perk of golden hour wedding photos is that this part of the day just tends to be a little bit calmer. Before the ceremony, you probably have some pre-wedding jitters, you’re excited to get going, anticipating what’s to come, and there’s also a lot to do and think about! Right after the ceremony, it’s super exciting as well – you just got married, all your guests are excited to see you and congratulate you, there’s a lot of people to talk to and say hello to, and it can be difficult to get away for some photos!
Golden hour typically happens a few hours after the reception has begun, so you’ve already had time to mingle, say hello to your guests, and you likely will feel calmer, because you know that you got married, and that everything went great! It’ll be easier to let your guests know that you’re heading out for some couples photos and that you’ll be back in a little bit!
How to Schedule Golden Hour Wedding Photos
When you’re making your wedding timeline, you’ll need to schedule some time if you want to take golden hour photos! The best way to do this is to look at the time the sun sets, go back an hour, and that will be the time that you should start taking golden hour photos. But, add 15 more minutes to the time that you want to start – on a wedding day, things usually fall just a little behind schedule, and it’s sometimes hard to leave the reception when guests want to chat, so having some extra time is helpful!
Always be sure to consult your wedding photographer about the timeline, and they can help you figure out how to schedule your golden hour photos. If you’re ready to plan your wedding, and you want those gorgeous, glowing, golden hour wedding photos – contact me!
The Person Behind The Lens
If you like unconventional, honest, friendly and real photos, I’m your person.
Sam Wildridge is a lifestyle photographer / filmmaker based in Wainwright, Alberta. Sam has been capturing wedding, family + corporate photos for 9 years and defines her style as "organic storytelling".