Serving the Denver, Colorado Area | With Additional Offices in Santa Barbara, California

What is “Golden Hour” and why is it important?

If you’ve been looking into having professional photos taken of your family, you might’ve heard the phrase “Golden Hour.” The term comes up a lot related to the timing of sessions, and the desired effect in your photos. Regardless of the type of session you’re looking to book, “Golden Hour” can be leveraged to use light beautifully. But what exactly is “Golden Hour”, and why is it important?

Golden Hour vs Blue Hour

There are two named periods of time in the day that photographers talk about a lot – Blue Hour, and Golden Hour.

They refer to different things, but both are related to the positioning of the sun, and how natural light can be used in photos. Both of them are aptly named! Golden Hour refers to the period just after sunrise, and just before sunset. That time of day when the light feels mystical, the sky is full of color, and it’s just begging to be captured behind you and your family!

Blue Hour, on the other hand, refers to the short period just before sunrise and just after sunset, where the sky takes on a gorgeous, rich blue tone. There’s enough light from the sun still peeking up over the horizon, even though it’s set (or is about to rise). The world takes on an ethereal light, and everything is bathed in blue. Hence, Blue Hour.

Of course, these only matter for outdoor sessions

Now, if you’re looking at booking indoor or studio photography, then you won’t have to think about Golden Hour or Blue Hour in the timing of your session. Photography indoors can rely more easily on artificial light. Of course studios with a ton of natural light are an exception, but there are exceptions to every rule.

But if your session is going to be outdoors, then it’s something your photographer might bring up in your session booking process!

Mom touching her nose to her baby's nose during Denver Lifestyle Photography

What these mean for your session timing

It probably goes without saying, but at different points in the year, Golden Hour and Blue Hour will be at different times! This is because (of course) they depend on the location of the sun, not the specific time of day. So in the winter, Golden Hour in the morning will be later in the day, while Golden Hour before sunset will be earlier in the evening. And the reverse is true for the summer!

So if you’ve fallen in love with a photographer’s Golden Hour sessions, but your little one’s bedtime is early in the evening, you might want to consider booking a session in spring or autumn. That way you can line up Golden Hour with their bedtime, and keep from your toddler being over-tired when we get to your session time.

Golden Hour isn’t the ONLY time light is gorgeous!

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself “there’s no way I can schedule a session at sunrise or sunset” then don’t worry! Golden Hour and Blue Hour aren’t the only times of day that result in gorgeous light. Your photographer has spent their career working with light, and learning how to get the best results even in sub-par lighting conditions.

So if sunrise or sunset don’t work for you or your family, then we will find a time that does, and that will still result in gorgeous, heirloom quality imagery you can enjoy forever.

Certain locations can also throw a wrench into the mix, because if the sun is setting in the mountains, for example, capturing gorgeous light might not mean waiting until the specified Golden Hour period. The same can be said if we’re on the beach in Santa Barbara! Only in that situation, we’d be working exactly with the timing stated for sunrise or sunset.

Family of four huddled together smiling during Denver family photography

Golden Hour Photography is all about Timing

One thing that should be clear at this point, is that Golden Hour and Blue Hour are both all about timing.

Golden Hour lasts about an hour (usually) but it depends on the time of year, where you are in the world, the air quality… there’s a lot involved. Blue Hour is even shorter, because it occurs when the sun is in a super specific position, about 4-6 degrees below the horizon.

So it’s a really small window. But what does that mean, practically speaking? Mostly, it means if you’ve booked a Blue Hour or Golden Hour session with a photographer, it’s super important to be on time!

If your session is at Golden Hour, punctuality is extra important!

Obviously it’s important to be on time to any session that you book, but life is unpredictable, and most photographers are flexible when it comes to family emergencies, toddler tantrums, and other situations outside of your control. However… Golden Hour? It’s not as understanding. It comes and goes as it pleases, and if that window is missed, it’s missed!

So when you book your session, if it’s unrealistic to make it to the session at the time set by your photographer to ensure you hit Golden Hour, let them know. Make sure that you’ve budgeted time, and if it means moving bedtime for a few nights ahead of time, that might make things smoother for you and your family!

Golden Hour Photography is beautiful, but other times of day are too

The way photographers talk about Golden Hour it can sometimes come across as if it’s not worth taking photos at other times of day. But that’s simply not true! Do we love Golden Hour light? Absolutely. Is it a required element of a session? Nope!

So when you’re booking your professional photography session here in Denver, if your photographer says that your vision can come to life without worrying about where the sun is in the sky… believe them!

And if you’re looking to book a session (whether it involves Golden Hour light, Blue Hour light, or neither!) reach out. I’d love to talk to you about how we can leverage Golden Hour (or not!) in your session!

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