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Oh hey! So glad you found me! Photography is my passion and I truly love capturing everything that is important to you: people, places, and awesome moments in your life.

My favorite photos capture emotion, laughter, and feel real. No fake posey stuff here!

I am located in central illinois, serving chicago and the peoria area.

traveling is my jam and i will go wherever you need me!
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How to take Beautiful Pictures in the Golden Hour | Chicago, Illinois Family Photographer

If you are a part of the photography community in any way, whether as a hobbyist, a newbie photographer or even a professional photographer, you’ve heard of it: The Golden Hour. What exactly is the Golden Hour and why do photographers love it so much? It’s the time of day when the sunlight softens and allows for beautiful warm colors to filter through your surroundings. You can find this stunning light anywhere but not at any time of the day.

The Golden Hour is the first hour of light after sunrise and the last hour of light before sunset. To find exact times, you can search online to find sunrise and sunset times for the town you live in, but what I do is just pay attention to the light outside. As a natural light photographer, my eye is generally drawn outdoors often throughout the day, but more so in the early evening around sunset. You can see the shift in light, how it filters through the trees in a different, more beautiful way, and the light starts to take on a golden hue.

How to take beautiful photos in the Golden Hour Tutorial by Joanna Smith Photography, Chicago area couples and wedding photographer

So it’s a beautiful time of day, but why do photographers love it so much? It’s the perfect time for shooting portraits. The sun is low in the sky which means the light is soft, diffused, and won’t cast any harsh shadows on your subjects or make them squint in their photos. The warm hues are also very flattering to skin tones. If you’re a bokeh lover like I am, you will soon fall in love with shooting at this time of day because the bokeh is to-die-for! It also allows for beautiful backlighting, golden haze, and stunning sun flares to come into your images.

Now you know what the Golden Hour is and when to seek it, now you’re probably wondering how to take pictures in this amazing light? The best scenario would be for you to scope out the location ahead of time, during the golden hour, so you can see for yourself the best areas to use for the type of images you want. Then you won’t waste any precious time on the day of the shoot and you’ll know exactly where to go for the best use of light. If you aren’t able to go to the location ahead of time, then the first thing you need to do is figure out where you want to place your subjects in relation to your light source, the sun. I prefer to put the sun behind people because I like backlighting, but you could also face them towards the sun.

How to take beautiful photos in the Golden Hour Tutorial by Joanna Smith Photography, Chicago area couples and wedding photographer

Next, you need to figure out your ideal settings. To get the most out of the Golden Hour light, you should:

Shoot wide open somewhere between f/1.8 and f/2.2. You will want to shoot this way to capture the amazing bokeh that will be plentiful this time of day.

Keep your ISO low because you will have plenty of light coming in. If you don’t like sun flare, be sure to put on a lens hood because you can expect a lot of flare and haze this time of day so the hood will help keep that out if you don’t like that look.

Experiment a little and remember to keep shooting. The light, clouds, shadows, and colors change rapidly and drastically so keep moving around and take all the shots you can during this small window of time.

How to take beautiful photos in the Golden Hour Tutorial by Joanna Smith Photography, Chicago area couples and wedding photographer

I encourage you to get out there and experience the golden hour for yourself and see how the world becomes a little more magical.

2 comments
  • Chrissy - Love it!!! It’s been so long since I’ve heard this term . Thanks for the reminder and I love the write up your blog is so easy to readReplyCancel

    • Joanna - Thank you Chrissy! So happy you enjoyed it =)ReplyCancel

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