Why do outdoor portraits take place an hour before sunset


Maybe you have heard of the term “Golden Hour,” or you have noticed that many photographers only shoot sessions 1-2 hours before sunset. There is a big reason for this (and it’s not because we are night owls).  Light matters A LOT in photography. In fact, I would say that it will make or break a photo.

Outdoor family photos take place 1-2 hours before sunset in a time called “Golden Hour”. At this time the sun is low in the sky providing a few benefits for photography.

Mom Dad and baby smiling at golden hour at Fischers Park in Lansdale


Benefits of the golden hour

The first benefit of golden hour is that the light is more flattering for portraits.  When the sun is high and overhead, the shadows fall under our eyes. No one wants dark circles under our eyes from the sun being too high. Instead, we want even light across our faces for beautiful portraits.

The next golden hour benefit for outdoor family photos is the sun can create magical portraits.  As the sun is low it can wrap around you, adding sun flare, beautiful rim light, and warm tones to your photographs. Without getting too technical on you, if you look through the images in my portfolio, that light in my outdoor sessions is all created in camera. I did not add that while editing. That warmth you feel looking at the images, or that extra hint of something is the light adding to a moment of connection, helping you feel it even more.

Another golden hour benefit is that golden hour is usually less crowded at outdoor locations.  As mentioned above, golden hour occurs just before sunset. Depending on the time of year, this can be a bit late, or right around dinner time. Most families leave the parks to head home for the evening, leaving the place more open for your family to be photographed without distractions!

Even if it is overcast, golden hour is still important for outdoor family photo sessions.  A cloudy day can seem like the perfect opportunity to shoot your session mid-day. While the clouds can help diffuse the sun a little bit, the sun is still there behind the clouds creating shadows. Oftentimes, cloudy days make it harder for you to keep the sun out of your eyes and can make kids even more squinty.  So yes, if it’s cloudy out we will still have your outdoor photo session around golden hour.

So yes, if it’s cloudy out we will still have your outdoor photo session around golden hour. 

Maternity golden hour portraits of husband and wife at Fischer's Park. Mom wearing red dress in front of lighted bridge - Lansdale family and newborn photographer

A few tips about golden hour:

  • Golden hour during summer can be quite late, with sessions starting as late as 7pm. If this is just too late for your kids, consider scheduling your sessions in fall to early spring.
  • Location does matter for when a session will begin. 
  • It is worth keeping your children up one day for your family session. Pushing naps a little bit later or longer and having a calmer day can help. But also, the fun of a new location and playing at the park acts as a great distraction for your kids.

Now that you know why outdoor photo sessions take place so late in the day, you’re ready to take advantage of this magical time and schedule your family portrait session today!

family-with-children-in-the-field-at-highland-mansion-ft-washington - Lansdale Family and Newborn Photographer

Interested in scheduling your golden hour portrait session? Get in touch, and let’s chat here.