They don’t call the golden hour ‘the magic hour’ for no reason. There’s a certain soft, joyous quality to images taken in that kind of light that makes it ideal for the most wonderful portraits, be they for glam shoots or wedding shoots – or just about any other type of photography that involves human subjects. Of course, there’s something to be said about shooting in window light, shade, backlight, and even in direct sunlight. But there’s nothing quite like shooting portraits at magic hour, which is why today we bring you our very own version of a quick guide to golden light wedding photos. There is simply no match for it, neither in terms of artificial lighting or post-production. You can’t replicate it no matter how hard you try and how many filters and actions you try. So let’s delve right into it, then:
The unmatched qualities of golden light wedding photos
The thing about golden light wedding photos is that they can actually be taken with the subjects staring straight into the sun without so much of a squint. Light at that time of day is softer because it takes a longer time to reach the surface of the Earth, as it has more distance to travel across the universe.
Another quality that’s unique to golden light wedding photos is the temperature of the light. In somewhat more technical terms, at magic hour the blue wavelengths of light particles are more scattered, which is why there are more reds and yellows in its makeup. This will make your wedding portrait subjects look almost golden – sort of naturally tanned-like.
Magic hour is essentially that time of day right before sunset, which means the sun has descended lower in the sky. This low angle will effortlessly add depth to your photos. Since your subjects will have longer, softer shades at that time of the day, the pictures will look more dynamic and more profound, in terms of depth-of-field. Golden light wedding photos simply look like more accurate 2D representations of this three-dimensional world.
When to take perfect golden light wedding photos
The ‘magic hour’ is actually about two hours each day: one right after sunrise and one immediately before sunset. The span of time you have at your disposal also varies according to where on Earth you live or the place to which you’ve traveled for the photo shoot. The rule of thumb is that the closer you are to the Equator, the shorter the golden hour is going to be. Seasons also extend or shorten the magic hour (with less natural sunlight in the colder season, it goes without saying that there’s going to be less golden light then). And, of course, the weather also plays a major role in how much time you get for taking golden light wedding photos. Clouds in the sky are not a good sign, if you’re going for that warm, soft vibe of magic hour portraits – though they can work wonders for achieving sharper shadows and a more dramatic quality to your pictures. In the case of weddings, the golden hour will usually catch you right after dinner or during the meal, so try to inform your clients of this in advance, so you can sneak out into the great outdoors with them for a few beautiful portraits.
There are lots of great options in this sense, since golden light is so permissive. You can have your subject directly facing the light, or you can get a warm glow with backlit portraits. In this second scenario, you can also try to obtain a rim of light outlining the silhouettes of your subject, which will make it stand out from the background and appear aglow. You can also try to obtain a flare, which will differ greatly from one specific aperture to the next, from one lens to the other – try to find the best kind of effect for your subjects. And, of course, golden light allows for a ton of experimentation, so just go out and have fun with it!