The Golden Hour
It is fall in the area where I live now and the colors have changed so rapidly I can scarcely believe it. It is so beautiful outdoors and really my favorite time of the year to take photos. I'll let you in on another secret of mine. I love to take photos of my children during the golden hour in the fall. I capture my best photos at this time.
Don't know what the 'golden hour' is? The golden hour is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset. During these times the sun is low in the sky, producing a soft, diffused light which is much more flattering than the harsh midday sun. I am not a morning person so you will not see me dragging my children out of bed one hour after sunrise for fun photos. Thus, in the fall, late afternoon is perfect photo opportunity time for me.
To capture beautiful photos of my children, I need to make sure the sun is behind them and in my viewfinder. My kiddos will be outlined by a thin thread of light. The light wraps around the little poppets which causes that great golden outline of light. Stunning results I tell you. It's not always easy to tell my kiddos to stop what they are doing because I think they are in the exact right spot for me, so I simply just keep clicking away most of the time while they are playing at the forest preserve or local parks. Sometimes composing photos so that the sun is directly behind the kiddos is needed in order to achieve good rim lighting so occasionally I will say "stop" and "pose", but I have to say the candid shots usually look better. The golden hour photos always look so incredibly stunning.
What I will normally do for composing my shot during the golden hour photos is have the children block the sun until I have the perfect shot in my view(ie: getting the perfect setting correct). I will then sidestep quickly and take a few shots. I try to keep only part of the sun viewable and keep the majority of it blocked by my children to avoid flooding my photo with too much light. It is a delicate balance to find that sweet spot which will get me the golden tone I am looking for. Experimenting is key and that is why I let the kiddos run wild while I snap away.
One more key thing to remember is that you do not want to flood your entire photos with light. I only want to back light my children, while keeping the sun in my viewfinder and have it cast some fabulous golden light across them. If you are unsure of the setting to use, simply fire off some shots in auto mode and look at the settings your camera used. Then simply use those settings as a guide for yourself in manual mode. Remember, it is better to overexpose than to underexpose. It is much easier to recover highlights than shadows.
Shooting during the golden hour is without a doubt a time that has made the biggest difference in my outdoor photography. I can't say that I will be venturing out of bed at 6 am anytime soon, but it might be worth the sacrifice. Grab your camera and get out there during the golden hour.