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The Best Time of Day to Capture Warm Photographs

The best time to capture warm photographs and a look at family photography sessions shot during the golden hour.

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Spring is right around the corner and I couldn’t be more excited. Why you ask? More sunlight with each passing day as we head into spring. Shooting directly into the sun (also know as backlight photography) has always been my favorite style of photography.

The best time to capture backlighting is two hours before sundown. Since sunset changes throughout the year, I like to use this online sunset calendar when scheduling shoots with my clients so that we can pick a start time of roughly two hours before sundown. If we are doing a mini session then one hour before sunset works too. The reason I prefer backlit photography over other styles is because it creates a rich color with warm lighting that you truly can’t achieve during any other time of the day. This is what’s called The Magic Hour or, as some like to call it, The Golden Hour.

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Shooting into the sun is definitely a more difficult photography technique. Depending on the setting of where you’re shooting, you’ll need something to help diffuse the light. In the image above, you’ll notice the trees in the background allow me to capture the sun peaking through without the light coming in too strongly. By acting as a diffuser, the trees prevent harsh light from entering the frame. You can also diffuse harsh back light between the camera and your subject/s but that’s for another time.

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Lens flares are another a cool aspect to shooting into the sun. It doesn’t always happen though so you have to play around with it.

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Rich gold colors are also a huge plus if you’re shooting during the magic hour. We shot this in a field of tall golden grass which made for a warm, deep image.

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Capturing the images during this time of the day is just the first step. Post-processing your photos is the second half of the equation. While I use Photoshop, Lightroom and iPhoto are other great options out there. During the post-processing you can really begin to add feeling and emotion to your photos by manipulating the color, adding depth, changing tones, etc. Above is a before and after example which demonstrates the impact editing can make on the finished product.

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If you’re new to photography or simply want to try shooting directly into the sun for the first time, I recommend finding a model, grabbing your camera and getting out there to practice. I’ve been shooting back light photography for five years and it has been quite the learning process.

In time, with practice, you will learn to manipulate the light to your advantage to create beautiful photographs. Don’t relegate yourself to overcast days because you’re afraid to shoot directly into the sun. The saying that shooting during overcast days is the best time to capture a great photo is simply not true. That said, there is nothing wrong with a photo taken on an overcast day. Many of my favorite photographs were shot during cloudy days. After all, I live in Michigan.

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Every photographer has their own personal style of shooting. At the end of the day, there’s no right or wrong time to shoot. It all depends on the look and feel you want to convey through your photography. Ultimately how and when you shoot is what makes your photography yours.

For me, shooting directly into the sun helps create a rich, warm photograph that perfectly captures the love and happiness of the families I photograph. If you’ve never tried photographing during the Magic Hour, I encourage you to get out there and have fun. Happy shooting!

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