Updated: Jul 25, 2018
There is one thing that can make or break any photo and that is lighting. You may have the most stunning bride, gorgeous scenery, wedding venue or location, but if the lighting isn’t right (and if your photographer doesn't know what she is doing), you can be left with dull, flat and lack lustre photos.
In wedding photography, what I’m hearing from a lot of my couples is how they are loving the hazy, golden, sun flare look in the wedding images they have searched through. It’s what we photographers refer to as "Golden Hour". So if you want “golden hour” photos, you need to consider a few things and plan ahead!
What is Golden Hour?
Golden Hour is approximately the first hour of light after sunrise and and the last hour of light before sunset and 20 minutes afterwards. During these times the sun is low in the sky, producing a soft, dimensional and diffused light which is far more flattering than the harsh early afternoon sun that so many wedding photographers in New Zealand are used to shooting in. The golden hour simply produces magical imagery.
Things to consider
Traditionally most NZ wedding ceremonies are held around mid afternoon – which means lots of sunshine, harsh lighting and shadows among bright greenery. People are often hot, flustered and sweaty, particularly grooms in full suit attire. Also, when the sunlight is too strong and bright, the tendency is for people to squint during photos. These are some very challenging elements for any photographer! This said, a professional wedding photographer will be more than apt to handle such conditions and will still produce stunning wedding photos.
Advantages of taking photos at Golden Hour
Aside from stunning wedding photos, boasting a warm and romantic feel there are advantages to choosing golden hour for your wedding photos and if you’re wanting to capture this time of day, it’s important to communicate this early on with your photographer in order to prepare in advance.
Opting for a later ceremony will allow you more time to get ready and arrange any last minute details.
At sunset the temperature starts to drop providing a more ambient and cooler temperature, which is often enough to make everyone in the ceremony (and guests) feel a lot cooler and more comfortable.
Any wind that arises during the heat of the day will begin to settle down come the early evening, leaving your hair in tact!
If you’re having an outdoor reception, the setting of the sun is one of the most romantic settings for a candlelit reception dinner, while allowing for stunning reception photos.
Choose a mid-afternoon ceremony, followed by formal family photos and official wedding party photos. After your reception dinner has been served, your photographer can whisk you away before speeches for some romantic and quiet golden hour photos, or;
Choose a late afternoon or early evening ceremony, followed by formal family photos and have your entire official wedding party photos taken during golden hour. This warm and soft light will stream in through open windows as you are announced into your reception area.
In both cases perfect timing is critical as there’s only a small window to capture this beautiful golden light at sunset. You’ll have an hour before sunset and approximately 20 minutes after to capture these photos. Ensure your photographer has researched the sunset scheduled on your wedding day and has scouted the best areas within your location in accordance with this lighting.
And then you’ll be sure to love the warm, breezy and romantic interlude known as the ‘golden hour’.