July 29, 2016

Golden Hour Portraits | Bridal Basics

“For a moment the last sunshine fell with romantic affection upon her glowing face [..] then the glow faded, each light deserting her with lingering regret, like children leaving a pleasant street after dark.” – The Great Gatsby

Ahh! If that quote doesn’t give you all the feels, then you haven’t experienced the magic of golden hour, my friend! :)

Chances are you’ve heard of the phrase before, or, if you haven’t, you’ve definitely witnessed it on any day with a gorgeous sunrise or sunset. It’s a phrase that often gets tossed around in the photographer world, so I wanted to take a minute to discuss it with you and show you WHY scheduling your engagement session during golden hour is so so worth it!

Coxhall Gardens Sunrise Session

What is golden hour, and why does it matter?

The official definition of golden hour is “a period shortly after sunrise or before sunset during which daylight is redder and softer than when the sun is higher in the sky” ( However, I like to describe it as that magic glowy look every girl who has ever searched Pinterest knows and loves. :)

Golden hour lighting is warmer, provides a soft glow, and is much less harsh and contrasty than midday lighting.

And that matters because lighting is everything in photography!! Not only does it make everything more romantic and sweet, but by scheduling portraits during golden hour, you avoid harsh shadows and weird light contrasts, too.

I think people often make the mistake of assuming LOCATION is the most important part of photography, but it’s simply not true. You could have the best location in the world, but if it has terrible lighting, we won’t be able to shoot there. In other words, if your session is in the middle of the day, we will be severely limited in our locations, as we will have to find spots with even shade. By shooting during golden hour, we can take advantage of the softer light and shoot in more locations!

Broad Ripple Sunset Session

When is golden hour?

Well, you already know it’s the first and last hour of the sun’s day, but that transitions throughout the year. To figure out when golden hour will be on your exact date, I always google the following formula: 1) date, 2) location, and 3) sunrise/sunset time. You can also use a website like to see a whole month at once. In the summertime, golden hour is very early in the morning or late at night, but I promise it’s 100% worth it!

Why Golden Hour Portraits are Worth It, by Sami Renee Photography, Indianapolis Wedding + Engagement PhotographerWhy Golden Hour Portraits are Worth It, by Sami Renee Photography, Indianapolis Wedding + Engagement Photographer

Downtown Indianapolis Summer Sunrise Session


What about my wedding?

With weddings, we obviously don’t have as much scheduling flexibility as portrait sessions. First Looks tend to happen closer to noon than sunset, but we will still be able to capture beautiful lighting! Just remember: lighting is always greater than location — especially during the middle of the day! This is the perfect time to TRUST your photographer.

When shooting during the middle of the day, I always look for even light and use natural reflectors (white concrete, sidewalks, etc) to capture consistent lighting, and you’ll never even know! For example, these were taken during the high peek of the sun, and they are some of my favorite images EVER! We just had to walk a bit further into the shaded area of campus to grab them.

Here’s another example of wedding photos from the middle of the day! Since the light was super harsh and bright, I made sure to position them in a shaded, backlit spot — it was perfect! Bonus points for being able to shoot through the leaves to create more dimension, too. :)

However, I do still love catching the golden glow for at least some portraits, so I always suggest sneaking out of the reception for a few minutes to grab some final portraits! I know it seems crazy to leave the party, but we will work really fast, and the outcome is 100% worth it! Honestly, golden hour portraits even serve as a break from the craziness — think about it as one final time to get alone time with your husband on the most important day of your relationship!!

Why Golden Hour Portraits are Worth It, by Sami Renee Photography, Indianapolis Wedding + Engagement Photographer
Why Golden Hour Portraits are Worth It, by Sami Renee Photography, Indianapolis Wedding + Engagement Photographer

So, what do you think? Have I convinced you that golden hour portraits are worth it?! :) If you still need some proof, here are full golden hour sessions to check out, too:

Sunrise Engagement Session, Lindsey & Stephen, Indianapolis, IN

Sunrise Engagement Session, Shelby & Matt, Downtown Indy

Sunrise Engagement Session, Kelsey & Jarod, Trader’s Point

Sunset Engagement Session, Whitney & Mark, Locally Grown Gardens

Indianapolis, IN




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Sami Orndorff is a Wedding Photographer & Lifestyle Newborn Photographer located in the greater Indianapolis area.