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The Timing of Your Portrait Session and Why it’s so Important

By Madison Baltodano, owner, and photographer at Bella Luz Imagery

Many photographers refer to the “Golden Hour” when suggesting times for your photos. So what is this “Golden Hour” of natural light and why is it so important? How do you use it to your advantage? What happens if you take photos outside of the “Golden Hour?”

What is the “Golden Hour?”


The “Golden Hour” is the last hour of light as the sun is setting or the first hour of light as the sun is rising. During this time of day a beautiful, soft light is created which creates very flattering portraits. You can use this natural light to your benefit in many ways: posing with the sun behind you or with the sun in front of you. Each way will give you very dramatic and different images. Let’s take a look.

Sun behind the subject


Putting the sun behind the subject creates magical backlighting and artistic sun flares.

Sun behind the subject. Photo credit Bella Luz Imagery


Sun in front of the subject


Keeping the sun in front of the subject creates stronger contrasted images, yet still with soft, flattering light.

Sun in front of the subject. Photo credit: Bella Luz Imagery


What happens if you don’t take photos during the “Golden Hour?”


Sometimes couples want to do a first look, and take photos before the ceremony so that they can spend more time with their family and friends during the cocktail hour. This is a great idea and I highly suggest it, but a few things need to be considered for taking photos during the day.

Mid-day sun


An experienced photographer will work with mid-day sun to use it to their advantage in certain situations. Putting it behind your subject if at all possible will help, or taking wide sweeping landscape shots where the harsh shadows on the face aren’t as apparent also works well for high noon sun.

Mid-day sun. Photo credit: Bella Luz Imagery


Mid-day shade or clouds


Shade can be your best friend. Anytime you are taking photos in the shade, especially the shade of a large dense cloud, it is as if the sun has been put into a giant, soft box, again creating beautiful, soft, portrait quality light. So if you are taking photos mid-day or even early afternoon, look for a shaded area to do the first look and family photos.

Shaded photo, mid-day. Photo credit: Bella Luz Imagery


Cloud cover, mid-day. Photo credit: Bella Luz Photography


Overhead sun


If at all possible, avoid taking portraits with the sun directly overhead, which may create dark shadows on your eyes, or have you squinting as the sun hits your pupils.

Your photographer will know what lighting works best and what lighting they are most comfortable using and best suited for their style of photography. It is best to consult with them when planning your photography timeline for your wedding day.
What’s type of lighting is your favorite? What time will you be getting photos taken?

Featured photo shows the sun behind the subject. Photo credit: Bella Luz Imagery


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