A photo of a little girl with long black hair, wearing a lemon dress and looking down toward the ground.

That Sweet, Soft Light of Golden Hour

This week I want to talk about light. Specifically, I want to show the difference two hours can make between harsh afternoon light and that sweet, soft light of Golden Hour.

This time of year reminds me of an important memory from childhood. I was 4 or 5 years old (I think). Bedtime was 8pm, and it was either spring or summer, which meant it was still very light outside. I remember being very upset at having to go to bed before the sun went down, particularly when I could hear my friends playing outside without me. FOMO was a thing before I knew it was a thing.

A photo of a little girl with long black hair, wearing a lemon dress and looking down toward the ground.

These last few weeks have been progressively harder getting the kids to go to bed at their normal bedtime. I have to believe it’s because they have my FOMO genes. It’s so hard to go to bed when the sun is still making “big shadows” on the wall outside your room, and you can hear other people enjoying it.

Typically, we don’t go back outside after dinner. Dinner takes so long (#toddlers) that it’s nearly bedtime by the time we’re done eating and cleaning up. But we have family staying in town right now, and we’re soaking up all the time we can with them. This means we’re having dinner with them at least once a week, and coming home at or after bedtime. The other night, we got home and my daughter was wearing a bright spring dress. We had scooped her up and put her in the car without her shoes. When we got home she managed to wrangle free and start tiptoeing up and down the sidewalk in front of our house. The light was sweet and soft and made her look sweet and soft, and I grabbed my camera.

I took those sweet, soft light evening photos around 7:15pm on Thursday evening. Compare them to the photos I took on Wednesday afternoon after we picked the kids up from childcare. These were taken in my front yard too, but it was 5:15, not 7:15, and the sun was much higher. The light is harsh on her face, she’s squinting, and the photos aren’t great.

Toddler girl standing in a driveway with the sun behind her on a sunny afternoon with harsh light. Her hair is backlit and she's looking toward the camera. The wind is blowing a bit.

Sometimes we can’t help what time we have a session. I do not recommend keeping your kids up past their bedtime for a family photo session. We’re bound to have to shoot earlier than sundown with the sun setting later and later through the end of June. But I wanted to show you the difference that two hours can make for that sweet, soft evening light. I wanted to show you that when we can help it, we should. And to let you know that when we need to shoot a session in the middle of a sunny afternoon, we’ll find ways to keep you and your kids from frowning into the sun.