Golden Hour Portraiture

I am a natural light photographer – this means I work with the sun. I consider myself a “strict” natural light photographer – I paint images with the sun, and I rarely use other equipment to change that. There are a billion different styles of photography and ways to manipulate and work with the sun in outdoor portraits. My disclosure here is that what I am about to direct you with pertains to my particular shooting style. Some photographers work with diffusers, scrims, and off-camera flash, and some work in midday lighting. I manipulate what the sun produces in different times of the day, working between the sun, the location and spots of shade or full sun to produce the type of portraiture I create. I am not condoning the work other photographers may do in different times of the day, but simply explaining why I chose the time of day I chose to work.

If you’ve ever had portraits done by a natural light photographer, you may have heard them mentioning the hour after sunrise or before sunset, called golden hour. This refers to when the sun is closest to the earth, and produces a diffused, soft golden light, which creates a really great scenario for natural light photography.

In Las Vegas and Henderson, because we are in a valley, this time of day can vary depending on where you choose to shoot. Closer to the mountains means that sunset, the time people most often book, happens earlier than if you are in the valley. In the winter it can be as early as 4/5pm, and in the summer as late as 8/9.

Shooting during other times of the day results in harsh lighting. Midday sun creates dark shadows under the eyes, and sun that is tilted can create very dark shadows in some places of an image, and make it very light in other places.

Shooting an hour before sunset, or an hour after sunrise, results in a very diffused, almost golden lighting. It’s very even, and shadows are much softer, since the light source is closer to us. It’s also a little less bright, so it isn’t as harsh on the skin. It’s almost like using a soft diffuser on yourself to make your skin look smoother and more refreshed.

The best way to explain the difference in lighting between day time and golden hour, is to show you examples!

Midday Lighting Example

midday lighting example

This image is an example of midday type lighting. The sun is high in the sky on the camera left side, their right. In both images, you can see extremely bright areas, like the background, and hot spots on their faces, where the skin is blown out and almost white. Her shirt almost glows neon and is very bright. His pants are in shadows and so dark you can’t see detail in them.

Golden Hour Lighting

golden hour lighting

These images are taken in the same exact places as the above images, just different angles and a different time of day, an hour before sunset. (This is the Arts District downtown, where the graffiti is often changed, which is why the walls are different in each set of photos.) You can see the lighting is much more even and diffused. In this images, the sun is setting behind the building – so we don’t get a bright ball of light on the baby, but diffused lighting coming around the building. There are very few shadows around him and he is evenly lit, along with his background. He isn’t competing with the sun, there are no hot spots, the image is nicely exposed all around.

Ultimately, what you enjoy, as a client, is what you should get from your photographer. My education is to help enlighten you so you understand the different times of day and how they affect your images in the end. If you prefer that midday look and want to shoot in the middle of the day – I would love to accommodate that! I want to ensure that your expectations of your images are met. As always, if you have questions, you can use the contact form (listed in the top menu) to send me a message and we can talk, or you can call me from the number listed on the contact page.